Normally, one tends to follow a particular pattern when modifying recipes – you prepare to cook whatever it is, and realise that either you do not have all the ingredients listed, or you have some extra ingredients that you really want to use (usually in my case because they are about to go off, or because the ingredient in question is goats cheese which improves just about everything). As you become more confident at cooking you may begin to modify recipes with a more intentional creativity, or combine the elements of different recipes. As a food blogger, I have an interest in posting recipes that you couldn’t just as easily get by going to someone else’s cookbook.* But in this case, the recipe is really just as it appears in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess (though in my own words, of course) with one modification – baking temperature and cooking time (basically, on very low heat for a very, very long time)…
Sometimes the biggest mistakes lead to your best discoveries. This is the third time I have made this cake (I mean, nutella cake? Who can resist something like that!). The first time was shortly after I had moved to the States (well, over six months after I had moved to the States, so really this is no excuse). I made the cake according to the recipe, put it in the oven for 40 minutes (the recommended time) and it was still completely runny; left it in for another half an hour, still basically batter; left it in for another hour and it was only beginning to develop some body. It was only after several hours that I realised I had set the oven to 180 degrees fahrenheit rather than celsius (this is about 82 degrees celsius – not hot at all). But by then it was too late – the cake was mostly cooked, and I had to get it out of the oven to take to the birthday party I had made it for, so I just had to work with what I had. It was one of the most delicious cakes I had ever tasted.
Cooking on a low temperature for a very long time causes it to become very fudge-like. Of course, if you do not have 5 hours to wait around for your cake to cook, you can make it as suggested, but I did that the second time I made it and found it a little bit dry, so this time I actually tried to replicate the baking conditions from my first attempt.
Nigella Lawson’s Nutella Cake
6 large eggs
Pinch of salt
125g (4.5 oz) unsalted butter (plus a little more to grease the cake tin)
1 medium jar Nutella (Australia and UK: 400g; USA: 13oz/371g)
1 tablespoon water (you can also use Frangelico which does sound delicious)
100g (3.5oz) ground hazelnuts (hazel meal)
150g (5.3oz) chocolate (the original recipe recommends dark, but you can also use milk or a combination of both as I did)
Start by preheating the oven either to 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) – this will take 40 mins – or 100 degrees celsius (210 degrees fahrenheit) for a fudgy cake that will take many hours to cook. Take the butter out of the fridge so it can soften a little before you use it. You should also melt the chocolate at the start so it has time to cool before you use it – to melt chocolate, chop it up and place in a metal bowl over a pot of hot water (the bowl should not touch the water). Put the pot over a medium flame on the oven, and stir continuously until it has melted completely. Chocolate burns really easily, so you have to be careful not to leave it for an length of time. (More detailed instructions here) Put melted chocolate to one side to cool a little.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks to one side. In a large bowl sprinkle a pinch of salt over the egg whites and whisk until they are firm and form stiff peaks (see picture above). Six eggs is a decent amount, so I recommend that you use electric beaters. As I don’t (yet) have these I had to use my wonderful boyfriend, Nick, who has a strange talent for whisking egg whites. If you have neither of these things, you will just have to whisk by hand (this is helpful information for people who are not that comfortable with whisking egg whites).
In another large bowl beat together the entire jar of nutella and the unsalted butter (this will be easier to do if the butter is soft and cut into cubes). Add the ground hazelnuts, egg yolks and water (or Frangellico) and mix together to combine. With a metal spoon, fold the cooled melted chocolate into the mixture.
Add a large dollup of the egg whites and mix together. Then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites with a metal spoon, one third at a time. You might find that at the bottom of your whisked egg whites, it has become liquid again – this is normal, just try to re-whisk it as best you can.
Grease a round springform cake tin and line with baking paper (the lining might not be entirely necessary, it did make the cake easier to remove). Pour the batter into the tin. Now, if you want the original Nigella version, then place in the oven you have preheated to 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit), remove after 40 minutes and put on a cooling rack to cool.
If you want to try the experimental fudgy cake then you will have pre-heated your oven to 100 degrees celsius (210 degrees fahrenheit). Place your cake in the oven and after about an hour prod the top of it to see that it is not extremely runny. It will probably take about three hours before there is a bit of body to it, but make sure to check regularly. You want to take the cake out when it is not quite set, as it will set a little more when you have removed it from oven – the softer it is, the more fudge-like it will be. (Note: my cake sweated a little in the oven, causing some liquid to drip from the cake tin, so make sure that you have an oven tray positioned underneath it to catch any drips just in case this happens.)
Allow the cake to cool and then turn it out and allow to cool completely before covering with icing (frosting)…
Chocolate Ganache Icing
125 ml double cream (4.5fl oz heavy cream)
1 tablespoon water (or Frangelico)
125g (4.5 oz) dark or milk chocolate (broken up into small pieces)
100g (3.5oz) hazelnuts (for garnish)
Place a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat and add the broken up chocolate, water and cream, stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted and everything has come together. Take off the heat and whisk – the original recipe says to whisk until it is thick enough to ice the cake, but I whisked a lot (well, Nick did) and it was still pretty runny. If this happens then stick it in the fridge for a little while and it will become thicker as it cools.
While the icing (frosting) is cooling, place the hazelnuts in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and toast them (remembering to shake it around regularly so they don’t burn) until they are browner and smelling delicious. If you have bought them unpeeled, it will be easier to get the skin off when they are toasted (you don’t have to be really fastidious about this). Put to one side and allow to cool completely, otherwise they will melt the ganache icing (frosting).
When everything is cool, you can ice the cake and cover with hazelnuts.
*This is just a personal interest, not a legal one. The copyright issues surrounding recipes are quite interesting, and, in brief, you are allowed to re-post someone else’s recipe if you put it in your own words (the writing is copyrighted, not the recipe itself) – though it is always best to put a citation where appropriate. For a more detailed account you might want to read what Smitten Kitchen has to say about it.