This hazelnut chocolate cake is inspired by our Dizzy Praline chocolate, a firm favourite ever since the first Hotel Chocolat store opened. This recipe uses ground hazelnuts combined with dark chocolate to recreate the smooth and seductive taste of praline. A straightforward type of chocolate is best for this recipe, so choose a house blend.
1.Preheat oven to 180 °C/gas 4. Grease x2 18cm round cake tins with baking parchment.
2.Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a microwave, stirring every 10 seconds to ensure the chocolate does not burn.
3.Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, using an electric mixer. Fold the ground hazelnuts into the egg whites. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, then mix into the melted chocolate. Add the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold gently to combine.
4.Divide equally between the prepared tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is firm to touch. Allow the cakes to cool in their tins.
5.Sandwich the cakes together with the chocolate spread. To make it a showstopper, pipe on the spread for a beaded edge and smooth it over the middle. Melt the dark chocolate for the topping, then quickly beat in the cream using a whisk, until smooth and glossy. Spread over the top of the cake. Melt the white chocolate in the same way as the dark chocolate, making sure it isn’t hotter than 30 °C, then pipe a swirl of the melted white chocolate on the top of the cake. Leave to set before serving.
The Character of Cocoa
The flavour of cocoa and the chocolate it produces varies depending on where the cocoa is grown. Different growing regions have different personalities, each pairing well with other ingredients.
Fruit-led flavours, refreshing in the mouth – perfect with fruits, dark meats and game.
Saint Lucia, Trinidad, Java
Complex and multi-layered flavours jostling for position. Goes with pork, chicken and wines.
Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador
Roasted flavours, led by mellow notes of roasted nuts. Ideal with fish, eggs and desserts.
Demystifying Cocoa Percentages
The percentages used on chocolate labels can sometimes seem a bit confusing. A 40% milk chocolate, for example, is not made with 40% milk. The percentage always refers to the amount of cocoa used in the recipe, and the rest will either be all sugar (darks) or milk and sugar (milks/whites).
You’ll find higher percentages in dark chocolate recipes, with less in milk, and least in white. Surprisingly, one of the UK’s most famous dark chocolates contains just 39% cocoa, and its milk counterpart only 23%. That means the largest ingredient overall is sugar. We believe this is wrong. We always prefer to use more cocoa in our chocolate for an authentic and satisfying cocoa hit. We put 40 – 70% cocoa in our milk and Supermilk chocolate, and 70-100% in our dark.
Our white chocolate has a much higher cocoa percentage than average, at 36%.
Sugar only costs a tenth of the price of even the cheapest cocoa beans, so it’s no wonder that it is tempting for low – quality makers to use so much of it. But in the world of fine chocolate, deciding on whether to use, say 73% or 75% cocoa in a recipe is the chocolatier’s choice and depends on the quality, character and flavour profile of the bean harvest. In many ways, deciding the cocoa percentage is like deciding the alcohol level in a good wine.
How To Melt Your Chocolate
In a Bain-Marie (recommended)
This traditional method offers a great deal of control. Put your chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn’t actually touch the hot water (or it can burn the chocolate). Heat in the steam for about 2 minutes until fully melted, stirring occasionally.
In a Microwave
Put your chocolate in the microwave on high power for a total of 40-50 seconds, but only in 10 second bursts, stirring in between to ensure it doesn’t burn. Stop when fully melted.
Essential Cocoa Nib Know-How
Knowing how to extract the best flavours from your cocoa nibs is essential to many of our recipes. It’s easy to buy cocoa nibs these days, but they can be of variable quality. Follow our tips below to make sure you get the most flavour possible from your nibs.
Awakening your Nibs
Often your nibs will have a silver grey hue to them as they have oxidised around the outside. This is harmless, but we recommend you grind them vigorously in a pestle and mortar for 30 seconds. You’ll see the nibs turn a gorgeous mahogany brown, their amazing flavour and aroma awoken at the same time.
Soak them in Water
After awakening, the nibs may still be hard and flinty. Soak them in a little hot water (just enough to cover them) for about 20 minutes which will soften them, the soaking liquid can be set aside as a flavoursome stock.
Storing your Nibs
Just like coffee, roasted nibs should be kept in an airtight container. If you are able to source ‘just roasted’ nibs or have made your own, you can freeze them in an airtight container until needed, retaining maximum flavour.
Dizzy Praline Cake Recipe
This hazelnut chocolate cake is inspired by our Dizzy Praline chocolate, a firm favourite ever since the first Hotel Chocolat store opened.
- cooking time: 20 mins