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Milk Street Bowtie Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

12 Servings

1¾ hours Plus cooling and chilling

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This impressive and sumptuous special-occasion dessert, composed of two “go-to” recipes from Dominique Ansel’s book “Everyone Can Bake,” is easier to make than you might think. We did modify both his chocolate cake and the mascarpone whipped ganache, and we also added a coffee syrup for moistening the cake before assembly. We fold a chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) into half of the whipped ganache to sandwich between the cake layers; the remaining whipped ganache is spread on top, creating a unique striped effect. The cake itself has the deepest, richest flavor and color when made with a good-quality dark Dutch-processed cocoa powder—we had the best results with Valrhona. Part of the beauty of this dessert is that the cake and filling can be made ahead; even after assembly, the dessert will hold nicely for up to 24 hours. We recommend making the ganache base and the cake a day in advance and refrigerating them separately. The following day, whip the ganache, assemble the dessert and refrigerate for at least two hours or for up to an entire day. For neat slices, cut the cake with a serrated knife that’s been warmed in hot water and wiped dry. To store leftovers, press plastic wrap directly against the cakes’ cut sides and refrigerate for up to two days.

12

Servings

Tip

Don’t whip the ganache before the mixture is completely cold and set. If whipped too soon, it won’t attain the proper light, fluffy volume. When spreading the whipped ganache on the top layer of cake, the less you manipulate it, the better. Overworking may cause the ganache to become grainy and lose its velvety smoothness. Finally, don’t allow the cake to stand for more than about 30 minutes before serving; if it loses too much of its chill, the filling softens and the layers may begin to slide apart.

1¾ hours

Plus cooling and chilling

170 grams (6 ounces) white chocolate, finely chopped
1 packet (7 grams) unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey
40 grams (½ cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (see headnote), plus more for the pan
216 grams (1⅔ cups) all-purpose flour
321 grams (1½ cups) white sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, preferably low-fat
⅔ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
71 grams (⅓ cup) white sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
95 grams (⅓ cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
35 grams (¼ cup) toasted skinned hazelnuts, half roughly chopped, half very finely chopped, reserved separately
For the whipped ganache:
  • 170

    grams (6 ounces) white chocolate, finely chopped

  • 1

    packet (7 grams) unflavored gelatin

  • 2

    cups heavy cream

  • 8

    ounce container mascarpone cheese

  • 2

    tablespoons honey

For the cake:
  • 40

    grams (½ cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (see headnote), plus more for the pan

  • 216

    grams (1⅔ cups) all-purpose flour

  • 321

    grams (1½ cups) white sugar

  • ½

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼

    teaspoon table salt

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1

    cup buttermilk, preferably low-fat

  • cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

For the soaking syrup:
  • 71

    grams (⅓ cup) white sugar

  • 1

    teaspoon instant espresso powder

For assembly:
  • 95

    grams (⅓ cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

  • 35

    grams (¼ cup) toasted skinned hazelnuts, half roughly chopped, half very finely chopped, reserved separately

Directions

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

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Reviews
Zachary W.
July 2, 2022
For me - revolutionary!
I have made this cake, and my own variations 2 or 3 times. The approaches/fundamentals are fantastic, particularly the whipped ganache filling/topping. That is my go-to 'frosting' for cupcakes and cakes, and there is a lot of great experimenting one can do with the same approach. Fantastic!
Emily B.

The ganache is fantastic! A cross between whipped cream and frosting. I substituted dark chocolate for white chocolate. It turned out fine but without the strong color difference between layers. I also made my own hazelnut/chocolate mix to avoid the palm oil in Nutella. That seemed to work well.

Sean K.

Although the recipe looks challenging, bear in mind it's just long—but not hard.

I didn't have honey so I subbed-in agave nectar but otherwise followed the measurements to the gram and the steps to the letter and the results were picture perfect: moist and deeply flavorful cake, rich and creamy ganaches, and a combined flavor profile that was chocolatey, smooth, rich, and decadent. I made this for my mother's 80th birthday and she was *gushing*.

Gelatin, show us the future!

Crystal H.

This cake wasn't necessarily a bad cake, it just wasn't the best tasting cake I have ever had. I mean, the cake didn't taste very chocolate-y, and the Nutella filling didn't taste like hazelnuts or chocolate. The coffee syrup seemed a little excessive, when I cut off the cake scraps and tasted them they seemed plenty moist. All I could taste in the cream was the cheese, so it immediately just tasted like a cannoli. I accidentally dropped a cake and turned it's crumbs into a cream cake that had more and better flavor than this. I guess if you are willing to waste about a day's work on a cake that doesn't have much flavor, then sure, I recommend this cake.

Shelly C.

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Elena A.

Fantastic recipe. The directions were extremely clear and I was able to follow along even though I had two child "helpers" baking along with me. I used vanilla instead of coffee to flavor the simple syrup, but otherwise made no changes. The cake tasted great and sliced beautifully. I enjoyed the whipped ganache had a wonderful texture, although it was extremely rich.

Heather R.

Delicious cake! In spite of the time and special ingredients needed, still worth making at least once, in my opinion. But there is a mistake in the step by step demo instructions. For the soaking syrup, it says to use 1 1/2 cups of sugar, waaay more than the 1/3 cup listed on the main page.

Marianne S.

What other type of nuts besides hazelnuts would complement the flavor of this cake well?

Lynn C.

Hi Marianne -

You can certainly substitute with almonds for the garnish, but you will need to either find a chocolate-almond spread that is similar to the Nutella called for in the recipe or make your own. There are lots of recipes out there for homemade non-hazelnut Nutella you could try!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Georgianne M.

The cake is sitting in the fridge now. I unfortunately overbeat the ganache and wound up with a cottage cheese looking mess. There was no saving it, and I had no time (nor the inclination) to remake the ganache. I had to substitute a mascarpone/whipped cream frosting. I added the Nutella to half of it. I added less Nutella to the rest of it because it needed more sugar and I didn't want to whip the frosting any more than I did. From the crumbs that I managed to eat and the 'not ganache' frosting, the cake tastes delicious.

As a comment, I would not recommend whipping the ganache 5 minutes. Mine would have been fine at about 3.5 minutes, but I thought I'd better follow directions. What I will do is cover the top of the cake with some ground hazlenuts, a bit of espresso/cocoa powder, and a bit of powdered sugar.
Has anyone thought about using Frangelico liqueur with espresso powder instead of the sugar syrup? Next time, I'm going to try that.

Charles T.

A delicious cake that my family pronounced worthy of a fine restaurant! I had trouble adding the top cake layer, but the ganache on top hid the cracks. If I make it again, I’ll make the cake in two pans for sturdier layers.

Louise A.

I can’t wait to make this cake! I do not use gelatin. Can I substitute agar agar - or just leave out the gelatin. thanks!

Lynn C.

Hi Louise -

We haven't tested this cake with agar agar and, unfortunately, we don't recommend substituting it 1:1 for gelatin since it creates a firmer gel more quickly (and at room temperature). We also didn't try the ganache without the gelatin since that was the key to Dominique Ansel's recipe. That being said, you could probably leave it out and just have a whipped ganache frosting in between the layers. In that case, though, we would probably recommend keeping the cake refrigerated to keep the ganache from softening.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Anne P.

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Anne P.

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