Chocolate and hazelnut cake.
Our chef friend Antonella Secciani brought this rich and decadent cake as a present to us one Christmas as it is gluten-free. The sugar quantity is low, but the chocolate contains sugar, so the sweetness is just right.
2 cups hazelnuts, blanched or with thin skins on
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
200g salted or unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
6 medium eggs, separated
25g caster sugar
⅓ cup cold espresso
3 tbsp Cognac
Whipped cream, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 24cm springform cake tin with butter, or line the base of a shallow cake tin of similar dimensions with baking parchment.
Put the hazelnuts in a roasting tray and roast for 5 minutes or until just golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Put the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and melt together, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain (this can also be done in a microwave). Set aside. When the hazelnuts are cool, blitz them to a fine powder in a food processor or chop them by hand. The choice of texture is up to you – smooth or crunchy.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl for 4–5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the hazelnuts to the bowl and whisk to combine, then pour in the espresso, Cognac and melted chocolate mixture, and whisk through. Beat the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks, then fold them into the cake mixture with a large metal spoon.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top feels firm to the touch and doesn’t wobble. If it wobbles, bake for a little longer. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Serve with whipped cream and a shot of strong espresso.