Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut Cake
By Ana Zelić
This was one of the first recipes I developed and truly loved. I’ve improved and changed a couple of things with this version, but it’s still the same cake that made my inbox full of order requests all those years ago. The hazelnut meringue brings that crunchy element of Ferrero Rocher, while the hazelnut butter ganache gives Nutella a run for its money. The chocolate hazelnut flavor is also present in the soft, moist cake layers, and the whole cake is covered in silky chocolate buttercream. If you try only one recipe from this book, I won’t be mad if it’s this one.
Serves 12 to 14
10.5 oz (300 g) blanched chopped hazelnuts
1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 ml) vegetable oil (optional)
1⁄4 cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup + 2 tsp (250 ml) whole milk
1 cup (2 sticks; 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5.5 oz (150 g) good-quality 55% dark chocolate, melted
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 g) egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
pinch of salt
5 tbsp + 2 tsp (70 g) superfine sugar
3 tbsp (20 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
Scant 2 oz (50 g) finely chopped hazelnuts
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Filling
3.5 oz (100 g) hazelnut butter
7 oz (200 g) 33% milk chocolate, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup + 2 tsp (135 g) heavy cream
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
Cooking spray or butter, for pans
12/3 cups (200 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 g) baking powder
Rounded 1⁄4 cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
Rounded 3⁄4 cup (180 g) sour cream, at room temperature
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
3 tbsp (45 ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup (1 stick; 115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
3.5 oz (100 g) hazelnut butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Make the hazelnut butter: In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the hazelnuts, stirring constantly, until golden. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer them to a food processor and pulse until the hazelnut butter starts to look creamy and smooth. If you feel that the processing is taking too long and your food processor might be overheating, add 1 to 2 teaspoons (5 to 10 ml) of vegetable oil to help the hazelnut butter get smooth and creamy in an instant. Transfer to a clean jar and keep at room temperature until needed.
Begin the buttercream: In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, salt and milk. Cook over medium to high heat, whisking constantly so the mixture doesn’t burn or catch on the bottom of the pan. Once it starts to thicken and you notice bubbling, cook for another 2 minutes, still whisking constantly, until it resembles pastry cream. This whole process could take up to 10 minutes.
When the pudding base is done, strain it through a sieve onto a shallow plate to get rid of any possible lumps. Cover it with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming and let it cool to room temperature. You can speed up the process by letting it cool in the fridge, but prior to using, it must be room temperature.
Make the meringue crunch: Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C) or 220°F (105°C) if using a fan-assisted oven. Line a 9 x 13–inch (23 x 33–cm) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to medium-low and with the mixer still going, add the superfine sugar, one spoonful at a time. Once all the sugar is added, beat on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and stiff peaks form. Using a tiny bit of the meringue on the corners, stick the parchment paper to a baking sheet so it doesn’t move.
Using a spatula, carefully fold in the cocoa powder and hazelnuts, until fully combined. Spread the meringue over the baking sheet as evenly as possible and bake for 60 to 90 minutes, or until fully baked and crunchy on the outside. When it’s done, remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan until needed.
Make the milk chocolate hazelnut filling: In a medium-sized, heatproof bowl, combine the hazelnut butter and milk chocolate. In a small saucepan, bring the cream just barely to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Cover with a plate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir with a spatula until combined and smooth. Alternatively, you can do this (using a microwave-safe bowl) in a microwave in 30-second intervals. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap touching the surface and leave to cool and thicken to a spreadable consistency.
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) or 325°F (160°C) if using a fan-assisted oven. Grease three 6-inch (15-cm) round cake pans with cooking spray or butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt into a medium- sized bowl and whisk to combine. In a measuring jug, lightly whisk together the sour cream, milk, sunflower oil and vanilla.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with half the granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of the granulated sugar along with the hazelnut butter and beat to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Next, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream mixture to avoid splashing and overmixing the batter. After each addition, mix the batter just until combined. Scrape the bowl a couple of times with a silicone spatula to make sure everything is mixed nicely.
Divide the batter equally by weight among the prepared pans and level it with an offset palette knife. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. It’s best to check the cakes after 22 minutes and then adjust the baking time accordingly because ovens can vary. The cakes are done when they’re springy on the top and when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and leave them to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up a little bit before inverting them from the pans onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, finish the buttercream: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for 5 minutes, or until it’s pale and fluffy, then add the previously made pudding base, one spoonful at a time. Beat everything until nicely incorporated with no lumps. Lastly, add the melted chocolate and vanilla and beat until smooth and combined.
Reprinted with permission from The Cake Chronicles by Ana Zelić, Page Street Publishing Co. 2021. Photo credit: Ana Zelić