Most people who know my dad would find it terrible hard to buy him a gift. He’s just one of those who has everything he needs and no desire for extravagance. However, there are few things that he loves unreservedly – chocolates, nuts, wine, durians.
I don’t think I can ever make a single cake that contains the above four things ( I shudder to think how it would taste) so I narrowed it down to just two – Chocolate and nuts.
This cake has three components – the jaconde (almond sponge), caramelised hazelnut and chocolate crémeux (which is like mousse, but even smoother and creamier). Just two flavours that go so well together.
Well, it may sound like a very rich cake. I won’t deny that it is but not in a coying manner that makes you feel sick after a few bites. The dark chocolate crémeux is not too sweet and the little pockets of saltiness from the fleur de sel (a type of hand harvested sea salt) gives the chocolate the punch that it needs; the bittersweet caramelised hazelnuts give way to a layer of crunchiness that adds to its dimension.
I’m sure you would like to know if my dad likes it.
He did (and it made my heart sing). He took a bite and gave it his stamp of approval (two thumbs up) before proceeding to finish the entire slice up, just a little too quickly. But I won’t judge.
This birthday, my dad is a happy man – a bottle of his favourite Bordeaux red to add to his collection, an upcoming durian fest, and this very dark chocolate & hazelnut cake.
Happy birthday to my papa.
You’re the best dad, ever.
This cake will take a bit more time and effort than your usual butter cake but it is perfect for a special occasion – a cake that will make all chocolate and nut lovers rejoice.
For two trays of jaconde (with plenty of leftover)
Recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar/confectioners sugar
150g eggs, room temperature
33g cake flour, sifted
25g unsalted butter, melted
100g egg whites, room temperature
17g caster sugar
1.Prepare two trays. Line them with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius.
Whisk the almond meal and icing sugar until uniform.
2. Add in the whole eggs and whisk at high speed until pale and thick, It should leave a slight trail when it is done.
3. Fold in the sifted flour followed by the melted butter.
4. Whisk egg whites until firm peaks.
5. Fold in egg whites into the almond mixture in 2 -3 additions, be careful not to knock out the air.
6. Divide the jaconde batter between two trays. Using a long palette knife, spread the jaconde batter from end to end until thickness is uniform. Try to do this as quickly as you can as you need to bake the jaconde immediately.
7. Bake the jaconde at 220 degrees celcius. It would take about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to overbake this as it will turn into biscuit if you bake it for too long. It should be slightly golden and it should spring back to touch.
You will have leftover for snacking. And you will thank me for these utterly delicious tv snacks.
63g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only
125g blacnched whole hazelnuts
1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Place water, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a clean, grease-free stainless steel pot. Place on low heat until sugar has dissolved.
2. Add in the hazelnuts into the sugar. Move the nuts around every now and then but do not stir it too much if not the sugar will start to crystalise.
3. Cook hazelnuts and caramel under golden, amber colour (as you desire).
4. Stir in the butter when it is done. Then pour the nuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Break it up as it starts cooling.
Dark chocolate crémeux
Enough to fill an 7 inch diameter ring, 2 inch high
Recipe adapted from Chef Stéphane Glacier (M.O.F)
250ml cream (at least 33% fat)
250ml full-cream milk
125g egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
338g 70% chocolate ( I use valrhona guanaja)
1/2 tsp plus another 1/8 tsp of fleur de sel (or to taste)
1. Measure out all your ingredients before starting.
2. Make a custard: In a pot, heat the cream and milk. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until well-combined. When the cream and milk comes to a boil, pour this liquid into the yolk mixture and whisk. Then, return this mixture back to the pot at low heat and stir with a wooden spoon/rubber spatula. It should be done at about 84 degrees celcius/ when it is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.
3. Pour the custard through a sieve over your chopped chocolate. Stir it slowly (do not incorporate air bubbes) until the chocolate has melted and crémeux is uniform. Add in the fleur de sel and stir to distribute evenly.
4. Use it immediately.
1. Line the cake ring with acetate. Cut out the joconde using the 7 inch cake ring as a guide, using a small paring knife. Then cut a slightly smaller joconde (about 3/4 of the 7 inch diameter). Place the 7 inch diameter joconde in the cake ring on top of the cake board (use a little of the chocolate creameux to hold it down). And set the smaller jaconde round aside for later.
2. Pour in 1/3 of the chocolate creameux.
3. Chop up some of the caramelised hazelnuts and add in a thick layer over the chocolate creameux.
4. Pour in another 1/3 of the chocolate crémeux.
5. Place the smaller joconde round on top of the crémeux and press it down. Pour the rest of the crémeux and level it off with a palette knife.
6. Place the cake into a freezer for it to set (or a fridge, but it will take longer) before you glaze and decorate the cake.
7. You can finish off the cake with a chocolate glaze or you can do a rough finish by brushing on some tempered dark chocolate over the top like I did. Decorate your cake with some chocolate decorations or you can leave it as you wish.
*Baking tip: The jaconde and caramelised hazelnuts can be made a day or two ahead. The chocolate crémeux should be made on the day of assembling.
You can choose to freeze the finished cake (sans glaze) for up to a month. Just glaze it and defrost before serving.
Once defrosted, it should be eaten within 4-5 days.