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A French baker’s whipped white chocolate ganache reimagines a stunning layer cake
Milk Street Bowtie Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

1¾ hours Plus cooling and chilling

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

Free

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
  1. 01
    To make the ganache, put the white chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and 2 tablespoons water; set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the cream, mascarpone and honey. Cook, stirring often, until the mascarpone is fully melted and the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and whisk until completely dissolved. Immediately pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate, then let stand for about 1 minute.
  2. 02
    Whisk the chocolate mixture until completely smooth. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled and fully set, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. 03
    To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist the bottom and sides of a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment, then mist the parchment. Using a paper towel, evenly spread the oil. Dust the pan evenly with cocoa and knock out any excess.
  4. 04
    In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla until homogeneous. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and, using a large silicone spatula, fold until the batter is completely smooth.
  5. 05
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then rap the pan 4 or 5 times against the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then invert it onto the rack and lift off the pan. Remove and discard the parchment, then carefully re-invert the cake and let cool completely. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and set on a large, flat plate. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  6. 06
    When ready to assemble, make the soaking syrup. In a 1-cup liquid measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the sugar and ¼ cup water. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir until the sugar is fully melted and the syrup is clear. Add the instant espresso and whisk until dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
  7. 07
    Unwrap the chilled cake and set it on a cutting board or other flat surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the sides of the cake evenly with 1½ tablespoons of the syrup. Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully slice off and remove the domed surface of the cake, creating a level top. Now slice the cake horizontally into 2 even layers. Carefully lift off the top layer and set aside; transfer the bottom layer to a cake platter. Brush the surface of both cake layers with all of the remaining syrup, dividing it evenly; the layers should be well moistened but not soggy.
    See Demo
    chocolate-hazelnut-cream-cake-step-7
  8. 08
    Transfer the chilled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on high until lightened and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl once. Meanwhile, put the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl and stir to smooth and soften. Scoop half (about 440 grams/3 cups) of the whipped ganache into the bowl containing the chocolate-hazelnut spread, and, using a silicone spatula, gently fold until homogeneous. Scoop the chocolate-hazelnut ganache onto the center of the bottom cake layer, then use an offset icing spatula to spread it in an even layer, all the way to the edges of the cake.
    See Demo
    chocolate-hazelnut-cream-cake-step-8
  9. 09
    Using a wide metal spatula, lift the top cake layer and gently center it on the chocolate-hazelnut ganache layer; do not press on the cake. Using the whisk attachment, re-whip the remaining ganache on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scoop it onto the center of the top layer of the cake and spread it in an even layer or, if desired, create swirls in the surface. Scatter the finely chopped nuts over the top, followed by the roughly chopped nuts. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
    See Demo
    chocolate-hazelnut-cream-cake-step-9
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.
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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.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

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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Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake

Get Ready to Cook

12

Servings

1¾ hours

Plus cooling and chilling

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.

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

Step 1 of 9

Create 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

To make the ganache, put the white chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and 2 tablespoons water; set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the cream, mascarpone and honey.


Cook, stirring often, until the mascarpone is fully melted and the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes.


Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and whisk until completely dissolved. Immediately pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate, then let stand for about 1 minute.

Step 2 of 9

Whisk and Cool Ganache

Whisk the chocolate mixture until completely smooth. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled and fully set, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Step 3 of 9

Prepare Oven and Pan

unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder for the pan

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist the bottom and sides of a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment, then mist the parchment.


Using a paper towel, evenly spread the oil. Dust the pan evenly with cocoa and knock out any excess.

Step 4 of 9

Create Cake Batter

40
grams (½ cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
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

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla until homogeneous.


Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and, using a large silicone spatula, fold until the batter is completely smooth.

Step 5 of 9

Bake and Cool Cake

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then rap the pan 4 or 5 times against the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.


Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then invert it onto the rack and lift off the pan.


Remove and discard the parchment, then carefully re-invert the cake and let cool completely. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and set on a large, flat plate. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Step 6 of 9

Create Soaking Syrup

321
grams (1½ cups) white sugar
1
teaspoon instant espresso powder

When ready to assemble, make the soaking syrup. In a 1-cup liquid measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the sugar and ¼ cup water.


Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir until the sugar is fully melted and the syrup is clear. Add the instant espresso and whisk until dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Step 7 of 9

Soak Cake

Unwrap the chilled cake and set it on a cutting board or other flat surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the sides of the cake evenly with 1½ tablespoons of the syrup.


Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully slice off and remove the domed surface of the cake, creating a level top. Now slice the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.


Carefully lift off the top layer and set aside; transfer the bottom layer to a cake platter. Brush the surface of both cake layers with all of the remaining syrup, dividing it evenly; the layers should be well moistened but not soggy.

Step 8 of 9

Whip Ganache

95
grams (⅓ cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

Transfer the chilled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on high until lightened and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl once. Meanwhile, put the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl and stir to smooth and soften.


Scoop half (about 440 grams/3 cups) of the whipped ganache into the bowl containing the chocolate-hazelnut spread, and, using a silicone spatula, gently fold until homogeneous.


Scoop the chocolate-hazelnut ganache onto the center of the bottom cake layer, then use an offset icing spatula to spread it in an even layer, all the way to the edges of the cake.

Step 9 of 9

Finish Assembly, Refrigerate and Serve

35
grams (¼ cup) toasted skinned hazelnuts, half roughly chopped, half very finely chopped, reserved separately

Using a wide metal spatula, lift the top cake layer and gently center it on the chocolate-hazelnut ganache layer; do not press on the cake.


Using the whisk attachment, re-whip the remaining ganache on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scoop it onto the center of the top layer of the cake and spread it in an even layer or, if desired, create swirls in the surface.


Scatter the finely chopped nuts over the top, followed by the roughly chopped nuts. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

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