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I just love the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate, don’t you? The first thing that comes to mind is Nutella. And although these little cakes are reminiscent of that delicious spread of hazelnuts and chocolate, there is no Nutella to be found in them whatsoever. They do share a few main components, hazelnuts and chocolate, but the cakes have an added ingredient to them: an absolutely divine liqueur known as Frangelico. If you love hazelnuts and have yet to be introduced to Frangelico, then you must give it a try. I would say it is the Italian equivalent to Bailey’s Irish Cream. Perfect on the rocks, in baked goods, even in your coffee. I had some in my cafe-latte this morning. Perhaps not ideal first thing in the morning, but hey, it sure was yummy!

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Frangelico dates back to over 300 years, to the Piemonte region of northern Italy, and was distilled by Christian monks living in the hills of that area. Legend has it that its name is the abbreviation for Fra. Angelico, a hermit monk believed to have inhabited the magnificent Piemonte hills during the 17th century. Take a look at the monk’s-habit-shaped bottle with the traditional rope-belt around it’s waist. Charming, no?

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Distilled with Tonda Gentile hazelnuts which are a specialty grown in this northern region of Italy, they are bigger, plumper, more uniform, shed their skin easily and allows for toasting with no bitter taste. It’s no wonder these hazelnuts are sought after from confectioner’s like Ferrero Rocher and, you guessed it, Nutella!

So why do these little cakes remind me so much of Nutella? The intense hazelnut taste, the smoothness of the chocolate, it’s rich, moist texture. But don’t take my word for it. Give these babies a try and see for yourself!

Recipe adapted from Mario Batali’s Babbo Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. of bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 oz. of toasted hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup of Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup of hazelnut butter
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons of brewed espresso coffee, cooled completely
  • 3 teaspoons of Frangelico
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

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Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan or 12 3-inch ramekins with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Melt the 2 chocolates together and set aside to cool. I use the bain-marie method.

In food processor, pulse the hazelnuts, confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder to form a fine, sand-like mixture. I made sure the hazelnuts weren’t blitzed completely, so as to keep a little crunch. I used hazelnuts with their skin on. Immediately after toasting them in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, rub the hazelnuts between your fingers and the skin will shed right off.

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In an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in the hazelnut butter, then the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the espresso, Frangelico, and vanilla, followed by the melted chocolate. Fold in the nut mixture.

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In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into the cake batter. If using ramekins, place them on baking sheets and divide the batter evenly among them.

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Bake the cakes for 16 to 18 minutes, until they puff up and no longer look wet on top. If making a 9-inch cake, bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely in the ramekins, or pan, on a wire rack.

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Don’t be surprised when your cakes go from looking like this…

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to looking like this.

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I was serving these little cakes to a group of 25 people. So I gently ran a knife around the rim and inverted them upside-down.

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The presentation was lacking somewhat so I decided to whip up some 35% cream with a couple of splashes of Frangelico. The addition of a toasted hazelnut on top and voila! Ready to serve.

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