nigel’s top ten – chocolate chip hazelnut cake with chocolate butter cream

This is the only sweet recipe in Nigel Slater’s top 10 and I was excited to try it after Opera Tavern’s fantastic warm hazelnut cake with lemon thyme ice cream. I was also expecting good things as two of the cakes I make most often – variations on his damp plum cake and the lemon and rosewater-frosted orange and pistachio cake - are Nigel Slater recipes.

So, how did i get on?

Not brilliantly. The recipe makes a lot of cake mix and I must have used the wrong tin as it overflowed while cooking. I also found it difficult to get it out of the tin. This meant the finished cake looked a mess but thankfully there was an abundance of icing to help cover it up with. Too much icing I think and if I made it again I’d reduce the icing quantities or plan to use it to sandwich two cakes together as well as cover the outside. Having said that, it is a very rich icing – it’s very like eating unadulterated chocolate - so that might be over the top.

The final verdict:
Would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of Nigel’s top ten?
yes, but I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the chocolate icing.
Would I try this recipe again in the future? No. There’s nothing special about the cake, in my opinion (Nigel obviously disagrees as he says it is his first choice for a birthday cake) and the icing is too rich for me.

Nigel Slater’s chocolate chip hazelnut cake with chocolate butter cream (December 2008) serves 10-12

250g butter

250g golden caster sugar

75g shelled hazelnuts

120g dark chocolate

4 large eggs

125g self-raising flour

½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons of strong espresso

for the spiced chocolate cream:

250g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (i used a mix of milk and dark chocolate)

125g butter

a knife point of cinnamon

set the oven at 180c. line the base of a 20-21cm cake tin (it should be one with a loose base) with greaseproof paper. cut the butter into small chunks and put it with the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, then beat till white and fluffy. toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over a moderate heat, then rub them in a tea towel until most of the skins have flaked off. there is really no need to be too pernickety about this, you just want most of the skins removed. grind the nuts to a coarse powder, less finely than ground almonds, but finer than they would be if you chopped them by hand. chop the chocolate into what looks like coarse gravel.

break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them gently. slowly add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time – it may curdle slightly but it doesn't matter. stop the electric mixer. tip in half the ground nuts and half the flour, beat briefly and at a slow speed, stop the machine again, then add the rest of the nuts and flour together with the chopped chocolate and cinnamon and mix briefly.

fold in the espresso, gently, taking care not to knock the air from the mixture, then scoop into the lined cake tin. smooth the top and bake for 35-45 minutes, covering the cake with tin foil for the last 10 minutes if the top of the cake is colouring too quickly. remove the cake from the oven and test with a skewer – you want it to come out moist but clean, without any uncooked cake mixture clinging to it.

leave the cake to cool a little in its tin before turning out and peeling off the greaseproof paper from its bottom.

to make the chocolate butter cream, snap the chocolate into small pieces and let it melt in a small pot balanced over a small pan of simmering water. (the water should not touch the bottom of the pot.) leave to melt, with little or no stirring, then add the butter, cut into small pieces, and spice. stir till the butter has melted.

leave the butter cream to cool until the mixture is thick enough to spread. (i sometimes impatiently put mine in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.) spread the chocolate cream over the top of the cake, decorate as the whim takes you and leave for an hour or so before cutting.