Most of the time I make desserts that I think someone else will enjoy. Whether it’s for my family, or a dinner party, or a gift for someone else. But once a year, on my birthday, I think only about what I want. One of my favorite drinks is the hazelnut coffee at Au bon Pain. So I used that as inspiration for this year’s birthday cake and came up with this Hazelnut Espresso Cake. You guys….it’s SO GOOD!
I started with a hazelnut cake by replacing some of the flour with hazelnut flour. Then I made my favorite Italian meringue buttercream and flavored it with espresso extract. In between two of the layers of cake I added some chocolate ganache and chocolate pearls for crunch. I finished the cake with chopped hazelnuts and more chocolate pearls.
How to Make Hazelnut Espresso Cake
To make the hazelnut cake, first whip the egg whites on high speed with the whisk attachment until light and frothy. Move them to a separate bowl and change to the beater attachment (no need to clean the bowl). Beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for at least 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each one. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and beat for another 30 seconds.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the cake flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk, yogurt, oil and vanilla. If they aren’t room temperature, pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds. Whisk them together until completely combined.
You’re going to alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter/egg mixture. So you’ll add 1/3 of the flour and mix just until almost combined. Add 1/2 of the milk and mix just until almost combined. Then another 1/3 of the flour, the other 1/2 of the milk and finally the last 1/3 of the flour. Mix just until combined.
Lastly, you’re going to fold in the egg whites just until combined. Pour into your prepared pans. I made a 3-layer 6″ cake. I always use an ice cream scooper to scoop the batter into my pans. I got 4 1/2 scoops per cake pan.
How to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream
Up until now, I haven’t shared my Italian meringue buttercream, even though it’s what I use most often and is absolutely my favorite. I think I got this recipe in culinary school, but I’ve been using it so long I honestly can’t remember. At any rate, it’s perfection. Not too sweet and so creamy. It’s a dream for piping.
The reason I haven’t shared it is because it is the most finicky of all the buttercreams. The sugar and water has to be cooked to a specific temperature and then added to the egg whites that have to be whipped but not overwhipped. It’s not difficult per se, it’s just one of those recipes that has to be watched.
I don’t want to scare you away from making it though! It’s definitely worth the extra effort. And once you’ve made it a few times, it gets easier. This is the perfect amount of buttercream for a 3-layer 6″ cake or a 2-layer 8″ cake.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Don’t turn the mixer on yet.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar and water and heat on medium-high. When the mixture reaches 116°C/240°F turn the mixer on high speed. Keep an eye on them because you don’t want to overwhip them or they will begin to separate.
Once the sugar reaches 121°C/250°F turn the mixer down to medium-low and slowly but steadily pour the sugar into the egg whites. Once it is all in, turn the mixer up to high speed and continue whisking until the mixing bowl comes to room temperature. It can take up to 10 minutes.
Cut the butter into cubes. The temperature of the butter is important. It should still be cool but not cold. It should be pliable. If it’s too warm, the buttercream may not come together properly.
When the mixing bowl has cooled to room temperature, begin adding the butter. I usually turn the mixer down to medium or medium-high and steadily add the butter cubes. Now turn it back up to high until the buttercream comes together. It should only take a few minutes.
If your buttercream is soupy after a few minutes, then either the butter was too warm or the meringue was too warm when adding the butter. It’s totally fixable though! Put the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes and then put it back on the mixer. Still soupy? Throw it back in the fridge for another 10 minutes.
Now all that’s left to do is add the espresso extract. Start little and add more depending on your taste. Every extract is different and some are stronger than others.
I always wrap and freeze my cakes before frosting. This makes them much easier to handle and reduces the chance of crumbs getting into your frosting.
I hope you love this cake as much as I did!
Hazelnut Espresso CakeCourse: DessertCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
Moist hazelnut cake with espresso buttercream.
Unsalted Butter 57g
2 Large Egg Yolks
3 Large Egg Whites
Cake Flour 220g
(1 1/2 cups)
Hazelnut Flour 50g
Baking Powder 1 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda 1/2 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Whole Milk 125g
Vegetable Oil 90g
Vanilla 2 tsp
Espresso Italian Meringue Buttercream (recipe below)
- Spray and line cake pans with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the whisk attachment until light and foamy. Move those to another bowl and set aside.
- Change to the beater attachment and beat the butter and sugar together for 3-5 minutes until light and creamy.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the cake flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate bowl, combine the milk, yogurt, oil and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and wet ingredients starting and ending with the dry. Mix just until combined.
- Pour or scoop evenly into cake pans. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- The eggs, butter, milk and yogurt should all be room temperature.
- Baking times are suggestions. Every oven is different, so begin checking the cakes at 18 minutes or when the edges of the cake start to brown.
espresso italian meringue buttercream Directions
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment add 200g of egg whites (from about 14 eggs). I buy the cartons of egg whites but make sure you shake them up well!.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan add 300g sugar (1 1/2 cups) and 100g of water (about 1/2 cup). Cook over medium-high heat.
- When the mixture reaches 116°C/240°F turn the mixer on high speed to whip the whites to soft peaks.
- When the sugar reaches 121°C/250°F turn the mixer down to medium-low and carefully and slowly pour the sugar into the bowl. Turn the mixer back up to high and whisk until the bowl cools to room temperature. This may take up to 10 minutes.
- Cut 400g unsalted butter (about 3 1/2 sticks) into cubes. Turn the mixer down to medium-low and steadily add the butter. Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer back up to high speed until the buttercream comes together. It should take just a couple of minutes.
- Add extract or flavoring and mix until combined.