Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nutcracker Cake

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I am tired as usual. Has anyone else found that naps are far better now than they were as a child? Adults totally need naptime more than kids. But soon enough it'll be Christmas break and I'll be slothlike.

This recipe is actually something I made while I was at home, enjoying my rest and relaxation. I wanted to do something ambitious. Something gustatorily complex. Something with TEN EGGS. Yep, that many. I chose the Nutcracker Cake from the Sky High cookbook (which is awesome, check it out) partly because the flavors sounded really nice together and party because I reeeeally wanted to make homemade graham crackers.

Hazelnut, graham, chocolate and rum are combined in a spongy cake (hence the number of eggs) and frosted with sweetened whipped cream. I had a lot of fun putting it together, but I was...a little disappointed with the final outcome. I mean, it was good, but it wasn't my favorite. BUT a). I'm a moist cake person and b). it did get better after a day or two in the fridge. The flavors seemed to develop more. 

Nutcracker Cake

Makes one 9inch triple layer cake
Ingredients – for the cake layers
1 cup skinned hazelnuts (about 4 ounces)
10 whole graham crackers (5½ ounces), broken into pieces (I made my own! I'll give the recipe below)
1¼ cups sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
10 eggs, separated
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup all purpose flour
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
Dark chocolate curls for decoration

(Notes: For easy grating, freeze your chocolate beforehand. Way less messy. Skinning hazelnuts is kind of a pain, but it's not that hard. Through your hazelnuts into a pot of water with a couple teaspoons of baking powder and boil them until the water gets really dark. Then, gather them up in a rag or some paper towels and rub them together. The skins should come right off. Watch out - they stain.) 
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of 3 9inch cake tins. Line the base with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour, tap out any excess.
2. Spread the nuts onto a baking tray and toast for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
3. In a food processor, grind the graham crackers to crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the toasted nuts to the processor (no need to wash) and add ¼ cup of sugar. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but do not blitz too much or else it will form a paste. Add the nuts, graham cracker crumbs and grated chocolate together in the bowl and mix.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and ½ cup of sugar using an electric mixer until well blended. Add the oil and vanilla slowly, beating until ribbons begin to form on the surface of the mixture. Then, fold in the chocolate nut crumbs.
5. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat until thick and foamy. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup of sugar, continuing to beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and mix well to slacken the mix. Sift over the flour, spice and baking powder and fold in. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until no streaks remain but do not over mix.
6. Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
7. To assemble the cake, place a layer on a cake stand, flat side up. Sprinkle it with a third of the rum syrup and let it all soak in for 1-2 minutes. Spread ¾ cup of crème Chantilly over the top, right to the edge. Repeat with the remaining layers, letting the syrup soak in before adding the crème.
Use the rest of the crème to cover the sides of the cake. Decorate the top with dark chocolate curls.

Rum Syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ water
¼ cup dark rum
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Place over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the rum. Allow to cool before using.

Crème Chantilly
2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and whip until the cream is stiff but not too thick or buttery.

Graham Crackers
(this'll make more than you need, but that's okay!)

1/3 cup honey
2 Tbspn molasses
4 Tbspn whole milk
2 Tbspn vanilla
2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbspn AP flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tspn baking soda
3/4 tspn salt
7 Tbspn butter, cold

1. Whisk together the honey, molasses, milk, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
2. Place the flour, light brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined.
3. Cut the butter into the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
4. Add the pre-mixed liquid ingredients to the food processor and pulse just until a dough begins to form.
5. Dump the contents of the food processor out onto a lightly-floured surface and form into a rectangle. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until firm, preferably overnight.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
7. Once chilled, work with the dough in two batches, keeping a batch in the refrigerator while working with the other. Roll the dough out thinly on a lightly-floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut eight 3-inch rounds of dough out and shape the rest as rectangles. Place the cut-out dough on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about one inch between each cracker.  Prick the surface of each cracker a few times with a fork.  Chill the baking sheet for 25-30 minutes.
8. Bake the crackers in the oven for about 18-20 minutes, rotating the sheet half-way through to promote even baking. Remove from the oven when the crackers have turned brown and are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool completely.


  1. I always try to taste cakes on the second day to let the flavor develop. Your second paragraph noting the flavors does get my interest. Sorry that it did not come out as expected, especially since you went to all that trouble making the graham crackers!
    I hope that you had some extra of them to enjoy.

  2. Hazelnut, chocolate, all in a sponge cake?! Sold. This looks great!

  3. Thanks guys! It's alright Tina, it was fun for me, and I did still enjoy eating it ^_^


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