OH MY SWEET FANCY MOSES I LOVE THIS CAKE. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can speak about it like a normal person. Well. No. I can’t, but I can speak about it like I would normally speak about it, which is somewhere north or east of the normal of a normal person. Right?
You know how I don’t like to repeat recipes? I mean, I do, but not super often. Well this cake. I’ve made it 4 times. And can we be honest? This cake is kind of a bitch to make. It’s not easy 1-bowl mix it in the kitchenaid and then throw it in the oven cake. It is cursing the day you were born while peeling hazelnuts (HONESTLY they are little devils) blending them and cutting yourself scraping hazelnut flour off the blender blades whipping egg whites in a frenzy and then FOLDING THEM (which I hate) and multi-stepped multi-bowled crazy ass PROCESS. But I do it. Willingly. Enthusuastically, even.
If you took a bite of this cake, you would know why. Your eyes would widen and you would say, oh now THIS. THIS is a CAKE.
And THAT is butter browning, friends. Do you see all those golden flecks? That is some fucking majestic shit right there. Browned butter. Can’t emphasize enough the power of brown butter. And those black specks? Vanilla seeds. Yes, this cake is flecked with all sorts of nutty dots of delicious goodness.
And you fold the brown butter and the ground up hazelnuts with like 5 stiffly beaten egg whites, which gives the cake its lift (no baking powder or soda in this baby).
Oh and you can slather it with some bittersweet chocolate ganache. If you want. If you want to LIVE. You do want to live. Right? Well, I’m afraid the only answer is to make this cake. Immediately. I will see you later you’re welcome in advance.
Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques via Smitten Kitchen
5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Let them cool.
Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.
Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.
Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.
Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third of a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour (or kinda much less, like 40 minutes). Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or cover with ganache (below).
Draping Ganache for 10-inch Cake
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cake.