Hazelnut is to chocolate as peanut butter is to jelly. They just belong together. It's a combination of flavors that is so perfect, you'll find it in baked goods across the globe. My chocolate hazelnut praline cake features chocolate and hazelnut in all the best ways. Tender, moist and fudgy chocolate cake filled with hazelnut praline ganache, crunchy praline crumble and silky smooth espresso French buttercream.
What is Hazelnut Praline?
Hazelnut praline is a cooked mixture of caramelized sugar, and toasted, chopped hazelnuts. The hot mixture is spread onto a silicone mat, or parchment to cool completely into a hard caramel candy. For this recipe, most of the praline is ground into a paste to mix into chocolate ganache while some of it remains in shards for sprinkling in between cake layers.
About the chocolate cake
This tender, moist and fudgy chocolate cake is my go-to chocolate cake. It has a tight, fine grain crumb, bakes up with a flat top and is incredibly flavorful, as well as being functional and a good foundation for stacked and tiered cakes. This cake can easily be scaled to make larger and smaller cakes, and it can also be carved for sculpted cakes. You can make this cake in 2 - 8" pans, then torte the cake into 4 layers, or you can bake this cake in 3 - 8" pans.
It's super important to make sure that the butter and sugar are creamed for the entire time listed in the recipe. This contributes to a lighter, fluffier cake and creates an emulsion so that the remaining ingredients are incorporated properly.
You'll notice that there are two different methods used for incorporating leavening in this recipe. Baking powder is incorporated in when adding the flour mixture. For an additional lifting boost, baking soda and vinegar are mixed together and added at the end of mixing. This jumpstarts the release of carbon dioxide creating more rise and more of a fluffy, soft cake.
The cooled cake layers are stacked with a layer of the hazelnut praline ganache, a sprinkling of praline and layer of espresso French meringue buttercream. French buttercream is truly a gem in the buttercream world. Made with egg yolks, in comparison to Swiss and Italian meringues which are made with egg whites, this buttercream is rich, silky and custardy. So delicious.
If you make my chocolate hazelnut praline cake, let me know! Drop a comment or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing your bakes and creations.
For more cake recipes, check out these posts:
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cake with Bourbon Dulce de Leche Buttercream
Malted Funfetti Cake with Strawberry Buttercream and Cookie Crumble
Chocolate Stout Cake with Coffee Irish cream Buttercream
Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Cake
- ⅔ cup (100g) chopped hazelnuts, skinned
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 8 oz heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 ¼ cup (480g) light brown sugar, packed
- 2 ½ cups (328g) all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder
- 1 cup (120g) cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups (454g) buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (60g) mayo, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Espresso French Buttercream
- 12 large (168g) egg yolks
- 1 ½ cups (150g) granulated sugar
- 3 cup (678g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ⅓ cup (76g) brewed espresso, room temperature
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Place the hazelnuts in a dry skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Toast for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or a piece of parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 1 ½ tablespoons water. Cook over medium-high heat swirling the pan occasionally to evenly distrute heat. Cook until the sugar has melted and turns a deep amber color. Do not stir.
- Stir in the hazelnuts. Pour the caramel onto the lined baking sheet in an even, thin layer.
- Allow the praline to cool and harden completely. Cut into smaller shards with a sharp knife.
- Reserve 3 tablespoons of praline for sprinkling. Place the remaining praline into a small food processor.
- Process the praline mixture until it forms a fine powder. After 5 -7 minutes, it will start forming a paste. If it doesn't, after blending a while, add 1 teaspoon of canola oil to help it get it going.
- Blend the paste until smooth.
- Pour the finished hazelnut praline paste into an air-tight container to store and set aside while preparing the ganache.
- Place the chopped chocolate into a medium size bowl. Set aside.
- Heat the heavy cream and salt in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat on the stove until the mixture begins to simmer.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a minute to allow the chocolate to melt. Gently whisk the chocolate and cream until smooth.
- Stir in the praline paste.
- Let the ganache cool to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools, to a peanut butter like consistency.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottoms and sides of 2 - 8" x 2" round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment. Create a parchment collar to go around the sides of the pans.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine
- In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- Place the softened butter and the brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the brown sugar on medium speed until it is very light in color and super fluffy, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just until combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of bowl with spatula after each addition.
- Add one third of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low until just combined. Pour half of the buttermilk mixture into the bowl and mix on low until just combined.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Scrape the bowl to make sure the ingredients are incorporated. The mixture might look curdled at this point, but it will come back together.
- Add an additional one third of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add the remaining buttermilk mixture and mix just until combined.
- Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are not any pockets of butter or flour remaining.
- Add the mayo. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the ingredients are incorporated.
- Combine the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour the mixture into the cake batter and mix on low for an additional 10 seconds.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Portion the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes on the center rack of the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. You will want to start watching for the cakes to be done, when the tops dome and start to crack a bit.
- Remove the baked cakes from the oven. If they have domed at all, use a tea towel to gently press down the domes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes.
- Run a butter knife around the edge of the pans, remove the parchment collar and turn the cakes out onto a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.
- Wrap the cakes tightly with a couple layers of plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill completely before assembling.
- The cakes will keep tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a zip top bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. The cake layers can also be frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap and placed in a zip top bag. I personally don't like to freeze longer than a week, but you can freeze these layers for up to three weeks. Defrost the layers in the refrigerator before using.
Espresso French Meringue Buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks on high speed until extremely light in color.
- Combine the sugar and 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils. Stop stirring, and continue boiling the mixture until it reaches 238 F (115 C) on a candy thermometer. Remove immediately from the heat.
- Pour a small quantity of syrup over the yolks with the mixer turned off. Beat on high speed for 5 seconds, then stop the mixer and add a larger quantity of syrup. Beat on high speed for another 5 seconds. Add the remaining syrup, and continue beating until the mixture is completely cool. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, and beat until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Add in the cooled espresso and salt and beat until well combined.
- Work with chilled cake layers. Using a long serrated knife torte the layers, cutting them evenly in half. You will have four cake layers total. The tops of the cakes will be the center two layers of your cake.
- Put one of the cake layers, cut side up onto an 8" cake board or directly onto a cake stand.
- Spread a thin, even layer of the ganache on the cake layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle ⅓ of the praline on top.
- Spread about one cup of the buttercream on top of the ganache using an offset spatula to evenly distribute the buttercream. You're looking for the buttercream to be about ¼ inch thick.
- Place another cake layer on top, top up, and press down gently so that the layer is adhered to the buttercream. Repeat the previous two steps, applying the ganache and buttercream.
- Place the third layer cake layer, top up, and press down gently so that the layer is adhered to the buttercream.
- Add the final ganache layer. Add the final buttercream layer. Place the final cake layer (the bottom of one of the cakes) bottom side up on the buttercream, pressing gently to adhere.
- Frost the cake with the remaining espresso French buttercream. Decorate. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
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