chocolate praline layer cake

I've been wanting to make
this Ottolenghi Devil's food cake with hazelnut praline for ages and with a birthday on the horizon (mine) the time had come. However, as my work mates have already declared the Clare Scrine chocolate zucchini cake as the best chocolate cake ever, I used that as my base and adapted the Ottolenghi filling and topping.

The cake recipe is pretty much foolproof but I was tired and used the wrong version. If you're wondering why the cake is so tall and handsome it's because I made the batter for a 20 cm cake but baked it in a 17 cm tin. I only realised my mistake after it was in the oven. 

I had all kinds of trouble with the praline filling though. The recipe didn't yield enough praline to both layer and swirl as per the original recipe so I didn't. Maybe it had something to do with my praline but I would have needed double the quantity but I'd run out of hazelnuts. The praline took way longer to process than the 5 minutes stated in the recipe - a good 10 minutes in my mini food processor and perhaps the end product wasn't loose enough. With insufficient praline I simplified the filling and the assembly process and thankfully, it all worked out in the end.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm layer cake. If you'd like to make a 23cm cake, refer to the link for quantities. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate praline layer cake - makes a 17 cm layer cake
2 eggs
75g sour cream
125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
60ml black coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract 
135g finely grated zucchini (from 1-2 zucchini) 
165g brown sugar
pinch salt
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda 
45g (⅓ cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
135g caster sugar 
pinch salt

Mascarpone cream
225 mls cream
75g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
25g icing sugar
Tiny pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C, conventional. Grease and line the base of a deep 17cm tin baking paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, the cooled coffee and the vanilla until well combined and a little frothy. Add the zucchini and stir well to combine. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined, ensuring you scrape right to the bottom of the bowl to mix well. Pour the batter into the tin and then bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out mostly clean. It’s important not to overcook the cake, so keep a close eye on it. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then snap off the sides of the tin and leave to cool completely. 

With the still on oven, spread the hazelnuts onto a baking paper-lined medium baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until deeply golden, shaking the pan halfway through baking. Set aside, keeping the tray and baking paper. You’ll use them again later.

Place a large saucepan over a medium high heat and, once quite hot, sprinkle in 1/3 of the caster sugar to cover the base. It should immediately start to melt at the sides but not brown too quickly. Swirl the sugar in the pan a little, then add another 1/3 of the sugar, allowing it to melt a little before adding the remaining 1/3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the sugar is an amber caramel, stirring with a spatula just a couple times (but not much more). Add the hazelnuts and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat, then quickly transfer the mixture to your baking paper-lined tray and leave to cool completely.

Once cool, roughly break apart the praline then measure out 55g of the mixture. Place the remaining praline into a food processor. Blitz the remaining mixture in the food processor for about 5 minutes or until it turns into the consistency of a smooth nut butter, stopping to scrape the inside of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Transfer this to a separate bowl.

Mascarpone Cream
Add all the ingredients to a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 1 and 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until you have medium peaks. Refrigerate if not assembling right away (you want it nice and cold). 

Halve the cake horizontally, then place one of the layers on a serving stand or plate. Top the cake with 2 tbs of the praline then half the cream mixture. Top with another 2 tbs of the praline and gently swirl it through the cream with your spatula. Carefully invert the other cake on top now. Top with 2 tbs of smooth praline, the remaining cream and repeat the same process with the smooth praline then decorate with the praline shards. 

Serve right away or refrigerate overnight to firm up the cream, but top with the praline just before serving. 

Despite all the trials and tribulations, the cake was absolutely delicious but a little extra praline would have made it even better.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



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