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Hazelnuts make the best desserts. I feel like a lot of desserts are almond based, and poor old hazelnuts never get a look in. Hazelnuts are more complex and work well in both sweet and savoury dishes. When I saw this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for brown butter hazelnut cake, I had to make it. It’s deliciously moist and nutty. I served mine with some fresh whipped cream and hazelnut praline. This recipe that I adapted from uses unsalted butter, but I prefer to make this cake with salty butter. Sweet salty nuts go so well together. This is a different kind of cake than what you are used to. It’s intensely nutty and full of different textures – the soft cream, the crunchy brittle and the nutty moist cake. If you haven’t time for the pralines and cream, this cake is also excellent on its own with some vanilla ice-cream. So, if you fancy something a little different and a little nutty, try this brown butter hazelnut cake.

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Ingredients

  • 150g / 1 cup of blanched hazelnuts
  • 225g / ½ pound of salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 125g / 1 cup of icing sugar
  • 50g / 1/3 cup of flour (*can be gluten-free flour)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Caramelized Hazelnuts

  • 75g / ½ cup of blanched hazelnuts
  • 50g / 1/4 cup of castor sugar

To serve

  • Caramelized hazelnuts
  • Whipped cream

Method

Preheat the oven to 175 C / 350 F. Once the oven has come to temperature, place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about ten minutes in the oven, until just toasted and golden. Allow to cool. Leave the oven at the same temperature for the cake.

Meanwhile place the butter in a medium sized saucepan and heat until melted. Line the bottom of a 10 inch round cake tin (spring form works best) with a circle of parchment paper. Then, using a smidgen of the melted butter, grease the inside of the tin including the bottom circle of parchment paper. Leave the tin aside until you are ready to use it.
Add the vanilla to the melted butter, and heat the butter once again until it becomes nut brown. There will be a few sticky brown butter solids gathering at the bottom of the pot, so make sure and stir these in and mix it all together. When cooked it should look pale brown, and smell slightly nutty. It should take about 5 minutes to make the melted butter nut brown. Take the butter off the heat and leave aside.

Next place the cooled hazelnuts along with the icing sugar into a food processor and pulse the nuts until they are finely ground and incorporated with the icing sugar. Add the flour, and pulse to combine.
Next, whip the egg whites and granulated sugar in a stand mixer or in a large bowl using electric beaters. Whisk until fairly stiff, you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything spilling out!
Now you need to fold both the dry ingredients (hazelnut and sugar) and wet ingredients (vanilla nut butter) into the egg whites. It’s a little time consuming, but you need to be patient and carefully fold all the ingredients without knocking out any of that precious air. Once everything is incorporated, place the batter into the prepared tin. Place the cake in the oven for about 40/50 minutes. You can check if it’s done by sticking a sharp knife into the center of the cake. The knife should come out clean when the cake is cooked.

To make the praline, place the hazelnuts in a large frying pan. Heat over a medium heat for about 3 -5 minutes, until the hazelnuts are golden and just toasted. Then, add the sugar and allow it to caramelize. Once the sugar turns golden brown, pour it and the hazelnuts onto a sheet of parchment paper. Allow to cool and harden for about an hour. Then place the praline into a plastic bag and crush it into small pieces using a rolling pin or heavy object.

To decorate, I halved the cake and put one half on top of the other. It’s not a very well risen cake, so this is the best way to serve it. I then filled the middle with whipped cream and put more whipped cream on top. I decorated the top with the hazelnut praline pieces.

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