Yep, I just celebrated one more year of fun. And luckily, our friends Ross and Cindy joined us for the celebration, just before they return to teaching in Hong Kong. We planned dinner to be gluten-free, but a birthday requires cake, and yes I made my own cake. A chocolate hazelnut cake! Sometime around 3pm, with guests arriving at 6pm, I decided to make a cake, and what exactly was I thinking? There was already guacamole, and my favourite cilantro and onion mix, I surely would devour it all with chips, before even getting to the tacos, AND there was ice cream too...so there was definitely no shortage of food! But what fun is a dinner party without a little bit of last minute preparation, and a little excess? Jeff also made his world famous chocolate hazelnut ice cream. It really shouldn't be called ice cream, but perhaps a frozen heart attack. It is the richest ice cream I have ever, ever, ever had. And I am going to share the idiot proof recipe with you. Keep reading. I decided to make the first cake recipe I found, in the hopes that I just might be able to have the cake ready in time, and I couldn't believe my luck. I opened up the Silver Palate Cookbook to the recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Hazelnut Buttercream and Chocolate Icing. Plus, underneath the title it says, "The best chocolate cake in the universe!" I had to know more. Yes, it is a cake with two delicious layers of icing! The recipe for the cake was fairly effortless once the hazelnuts were roasted, although, trying to get the skins off of hazelnuts is next to impossible, even while I did enjoy basking in the gloriously fragrant scent of hazelnuts wafting through the summer air. I think it nearly made me drunk. I probably love the hazelnut and chocolate combination more than most any other combination in the world, so perhaps I am at least a wee bit biased about this cake. But it was a pretty good cake. Next time, I will add an espresso to the cake for added moisture, and pulverize the hazelnuts to a finer paste. Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Adapted, but only slightly, from the Silver Palate Cookbook Start with roasting 2 cups whole hazlenuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 25 inutes, or until the flesh is starting to peak out. Rub between towels to remove as much skin as possible. Place the hazelnuts in the food processor, and grind until finely ground (but not yet a paste), remove 3 tbsp of hazelnuts, and set aside. Here are ground hazelnuts about to go for a swim in the cake batter: Continue to grind the rest of the hazelnuts until it becomes a very fine paste, like natural peanut butter. Hazelnut Buttercream 1 1/4 cups shelled hazelnuts 5 tablespoons honey 2 tablespoons of brandy (I used nocino, a walnut liqueur) 1 cup icing sugar, sifted 4 tablespoons butter, softened 1. Add the hazelnut paste to a bowl and combine with the honey and liqueur, and let this sit while making the cake. 2. Once it is time to start assembling the cake, cream together the icing sugar and butter, until it is light an fluffy. Add the hazelnut paste and thoroughly combine. Chocolate Hazelnut Cake 4 eggs, separated 1 cup sugar 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon self-rising cake flour 1/4 tsp salt 3 tablespoons very finely ground skinned hazelnuts Hazelnut Buttercream (recipe above) Chocolate Icing (recipe follows) 1. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is thick and pale yellow. 2. Melt the chocolate with the butter, in a microwave safe dish. Turn the microwave on for 10-15 seconds, and then stop and stir. Be careful, or it can burn easily. Let cool, slightly. 3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch springform pan. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of the pan. 4. Pour the chocolate-butter mixture into egg mixture bit by bit, being careful to stir constantly, but just enough to blend. Add the flour, salt and reserved ground hazelnuts. 5. Whip egg whites until stiff, and fold gently into batter. 6. Pour the cake batter into prepared pan. 7. Set in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until edges are firm and inside is set but still somewhat soft. Do not worry if it cracks slighly. Cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack for 1 hour. Remove the sides of the cake from the pan with a knife, and continue to cool the cake to room temperature. 8. When the cake is cool, invert it onto a serving plate and spread the top and sides with the hazelnut buttercream. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 9. Remove cake from refrigerator and spread the top and sides with warm chocolate icing. Work quickly, as icing sets quickly. Place the cake back into the refrigerator to cool at least another 30 minutes, or as long as you can stand waiting.... Chocolate Icing 4 tablespoons butter 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips 3 tablespoons whipping cream 2/3 cup sifted icing sugar 1 tsp vanilla 1. In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together, but only enough to allow them to combine into a thick paste. 2. Beat in the cream, icing sugar, and vanilla. 3. Spread this on the cake while warm. It might be a little runny, if it is too warm, but it will be just fine.