Friday, May 22, 2009

Honey Hazelnut Cake

This morning I went to visit my friend M. for tea. And I always want something sweet and baked to go with my tea. My ideal cake is one that is light, moist, fragrant, filled with subtle flavors, with an interesting texture. Especially if that texture is slightly caramelized and crunchy on top. Going through the cake recipes on Chocolate and Zucchini (Clotilde's recipes never fail!), the Honey Hazelnut Cake filled all these requirements in my baker's imagination. 

Of course, I made my own adjustments. I find most recipes have too much sugar. This one definitely did, since it called for twice as much (yes, you read that correctly) sugar as it did flour. I changed that ratio around, and because of the addition of melted honey to the batter, I didn't miss the sugar one bit. In fact, next time I might try reducing it even more. I also took Clotilde's advice on doubling the recipe and toasting the hazelnuts. 

You could probably make some substitutions to this cake - trying other nuts instead of hazelnuts, for example - but who wants to mess with a good thing? (Apparently I do, blatantly thumbing my nose at even Clotilde!) The combination of toasted hazelnuts and fragrant honey is ethereal and earthy. (You ask me if this is possible, and I say "yes!") The crust is slightly crunchy, and the inside is a moist and cakey. And what a combo... honey and hazelnuts completely infuse the cake, making it absolutely irresistible. 

I would eat this anytime of the day. Breakfast, tea, dessert, midnight snack... you doubt my gluttony? This is what's left of the cake and it's only 5 o'clock! 

I'm pretty sure J. and I will polish the rest off for breakfast tomorrow. I am also pretty sure I will be making this at least two more times this week. 

Honey Hazelnut Cake 
(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini)

1/2 cup sugar (or 1/3, if you want a little less sugar, like I might)
1 cup flour (of your choice, unbleached all purpose is just fine)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2/3 cups whole raw hazelnuts
10 Tablespoons butter (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
6 tablespoons honey

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a rack set in the middle of the oven. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is somewhat incorporated before adding the next one. 

Then, toast the hazelnuts. Rub them in a teatowel to remove the brown skins, which can get bitter. Chop them roughly (I pulsed them a few times in my food processor), and let them cool before folding them into the batter. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan, and let it cool just a bit before adding it to the batter. Fold in until just incorporated. 

Pour batter into a greased and floured cake pan or tart pan (I did mine in my tart pan, as you can see in the photo above), and make sure the top is level. 

Bake at 350 F for 25 - 30 minutes, until the middle of the cake is set and the top is golden brown. Serve with a little bit of whipped cream, or just as it is, slightly warm. 

I could also see this cake modified a little bit to make a stunning informal layered cake. Reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup, and make a double batch. Bake the batter in two separate cake pans, and layer the cakes when cool with whipped cream flavored with honey, and perhaps a little buttered rum? Go nuts. 

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