Chocolate-Hazelnut Layer Cake Recipe

Chocolate-Hazelnut Layer Cake Recipe

[Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]


  • The most efficient way to remove hazelnuts' unpleasantly bitter skins is to blanch them. Bring 4 cups water and 1/4 cup baking soda to boil in a large pot. Add the hazelnuts and boil 5 minutes. Drain the hazelnuts in a colander and rinse them under cold running water, rubbing them against each other until most of the skins have come off. Transfer the hazelnuts to a clean kitchen towel (one you're not attached to as it will stain) and rub any remaining skins off. Place the skinned hazelnuts in a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes.
  • The chocolate may also be melted in a double-boiler. Fill a medium saucepan about a quarter full of water and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and allow water to simmer. Place a metal bowl over saucepan—make sure the water is not making contact with the bottom of the bowl. Place chocolate in bowl and stir constantly until smooth and melted.
    • Yield:Serves 8 to 10
    • Active time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Total time:4 hours 30 minutes


    • For the Cake
    • Baking spray
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur
    • 3/4 cup boiling water
    • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
    • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
    • For the Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur
    • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
    • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 cup Nutella
    • 1 cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts, chopped (See Notes)
    • For the Assembly
    • 1 cup toasted and skinned hazelnuts (See Notes)
    • 1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur
    • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


    1. 1.

      For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Line pans with parchment paper rounds and spray once again with baking spray.

    2. 2.

      In large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until mixture is a thick paste.

    3. 3.

      Stir espresso powder into hazelnut liqueur, then stir in boiling water, and whisk mixture into cake batter until smooth.

    4. 4.

      Place chocolate in small bowl and microwave until smooth and melted, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping microwave to stir chocolate every 20 seconds. Stir melted chocolate into batter. (See Notes)

    5. 5.

      Scrape batter into prepared pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling rack and cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn cakes out directly onto racks, peel off and discard parchment, then invert cakes so tops are facing up. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

    6. 6.

      For the Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse: Meanwhile, whip the cream, hazelnut liqueur, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.

    7. 7.

      Place chocolate in small bowl and microwave until smooth and melted, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping microwave to stir chocolate every 20 seconds; set aside. (See Notes)

    8. 8.

      Beat cream cheese and Nutella on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Pour in melted chocolate and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

    9. 9.

      Add hazelnuts and beat just until combined. Fold in whipped cream.

    10. 10.

      Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until slightly set, 30 to 60 minutes.

    11. 11.

      To Assemble: With a serrated knife, cut each cake in half to create 4 equal layers.

    12. 12.

      Place one cake layer on cake stand or serving dish. Brush with hazelnut liqueur and spread a generous 1 1/2 cups mousse.

    13. 13.

      Place second layer of cake on top of mousse and repeat brushing and layering procedure, finishing with cake layer.

    14. 14.

      Tuck the whole hazelnuts into the mousse visible between layers. Dust top of cake with confectioners’ sugar.

    15. 15.

      Chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.