If you didn’t know, I used to have a cupcake business back during my undergrad. It was called Dolce Delights and I’d make cupcakes and cakes for bachelorette parties, weddings, personal indulgence, markets, and even supplied a couple local cafes downtown. Nearing the end of its prime, I was getting really bored and I had lost the passion. I began to only selectively take orders that were challenging to me – flavour requests only. Give me the idea of your dream cake and I’ll make it. I’d always relish when I had delivered the cakes to my clients and I’d receive a glowing testimony back. I miss those days.
Nowadays, I found a way to bake cakes regularly at my office job. I always ask the birthday people what they would like as a cake, even better when there are multiple people and I have to consider and mash up many concepts into one. This month was no exception. Just two celebrants this month and I was dealt with chocolate and hazelnut. Easy, I thought. So I had set to bake the office a chocolate hazelnut cake.
Easy, because the flavour combination is basically Nutella. Not-so-easy because our office contains many vegans so I had to veganize the cake. I never like to resort to store bought Nutella, I opted to venture out and make my own vegan version of Nutella. The vegan chocolate cake was the easiest part but I had never attempted to make a nut butter before. Well, here we go…
The key to a great (and easy!) nut butter is a great food processor. You’ll want something high powered enough that it can run straight for a good 10 minutes atleast to really break down the nuts and release its natural fats.
With nut butters, you’ll want to try to rub off the skins from the nuts beforehand in order to produce a smooth butter. Consistency is key! I like to place the nuts in a tea towel and rub together until the skins fall out. Continue to do so until most of the skins fall off, toss them in your food processor, and whip up with the remaining ingredients! Please know that homemade Nutella does NOT taste anything like store bought. There is a ton of sugar that goes into Nutella so please adjust to your liking.
This recipe will make atleast 3 cups of Nutella so feel free to store the rest in your fridge. I found it to be quite liquidy so best to keep that in mind.
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CAKE – makes 1 cake, 2.5 layers; Nutella recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla bourbon extract
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½ cup confectioner’s sugar, more as needed
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
¼ cup almond milk
Place the hazelnuts in a tea towel or sturdy cloth, wrap and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Repeat this process until most of the skins fall off. It’s okay if you can’t get them all but the more you get, the smoother your butter will be.
Transfer the skinless hazelnuts to a food processor and blend on “high” for 10 minutes. Check at 5 minutes and scrape down the sides to ensure emulsifies seamlessly. Add in the rest of the ingredients and continue to blend on “high” until everything is well-incorporated and spreadable. Mine came out to be more liquid than I wanted, but it will firm up in the fridge with the coconut oil.
Vegan chocolate cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsps baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsps instant espresso powder
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup almond milk
2 tsps white vinegar
1 tsp Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350F and place the rack in the middle. Line an 8” springform cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides with oil. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, whisk the dry ingredients together (flour to espresso powder) on low.
In a separate bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients (oil to vanilla extract) together. Mix to combine and let sit for 1 minute so that the vinegar curdles the milk mixture. Slowly dribble the wet mixture into the dry ingredients over medium speed until fully incorporated.
Pour the prepared mixture into the pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, loosen the sides, and transfer to a cooling rack.
Once the cake has cooled completely (ideally overnight or for two hours in the fridge), cut equally lengthwise in half to create two layers. Level off the top of the cake and save this for your base layer.
Vegan chocolate hazelnut icing
½ cup vegan nutella
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp madagscar bourbon vanilla extract
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/8 cup almond milk
2 cups confectioners sugar, more if needed
In your stand mixer, beat the vegetable shortening and Nutella for 3 minutes or until well-mixed over medium. Add in the vanilla and cocoa powder and continue beating. Gradually add in the confectioner’s sugar and milk and up the speed. Scrape down the sides in between. Beat for 3 minutes or until it doubles in size. Continue alternating the confectioner’s sugar and milk until it is all used up and the icing is smooth and creamy.
Line the bottom of your 8” springform pan with a circular piece of parchment paper – you can do this by tracing around your pan and cutting it out. Lock in the springform and add the top cake scraps to the bottom of the pan. Press down. This layer should be thinner than the rest but I hate wasting cake so it adds for a nice base.
Get a dollop of the chocolate hazelnut icing and spread evenly.
Apply the second layer and press down. Apply the icing and repeat the previous stop until you’ve finished the third layer.
Apply the last remaining amount of frosting and top with an additional ½ to 1 cup of crushed hazelnuts.