Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Every year, I let Quinn pick his birthday dessert. Now, when I say that, what I actually mean is that I spend a good bit of time asking lots of questions. A cake or something else? Chocolate? Caramel? Cheesecake? Any idea at all what you’d like? Then, using the bits of information I’m given here and there, I pick out several recipes and let him choose one.

This year’s choice is from one of my favorite baking books, How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. It’s actually called Torta Alla Gianduia. That seemed a bit much to me, so I went with the much simpler name.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is a beautiful, delicious dessert worthy of a special occasion.

It’s really quite a simple cake to make. It is one of those rare recipes that looks impressive without taking days to make while making you consider giving up baking once and for all. I only had two issues with the recipe. The first is just a technical problem. The Nutella in my grocery store comes in a 13 ounce jar, not 14 ounces. Luckily, I had an opened jar in the pantry, so I added an extra dollop. Secondly, be aware that the whisking portion of the icing recipe is beyond tedious. The directions state that the mixture should be whisked until it is “the right consistency.” Not having more than that to go by leaves it open to interpretation. I think I might have liked it to be a bit thicker, but it still worked well enough.

I was tempted to use semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet because of Quinn’s usual chocolate preferences. However, I don’t think it would have been nearly as good. It’s so rich that it seems to lend itself to a special occasion.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is wonderfully delicious and beautiful cake that's surprisingly simple to make!

This year, I would say Quinn chose his cake rather well. It does bear at least a similarity in flavor to his last birthday cake, but it is hard to beat chocolate and hazelnuts. For all you serious chocolate fans, I urge you to give it a try. If you’re a Nutella fan, too, then I really must insist that you make it as soon as possible.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake


For the cake:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 14 ounces (387g) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum, or water
  • 1/2 cup (45g) ground hazelnuts
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the frosting:

  • 4 ounces (113g) hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum, or water
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella. Mix in the Frangelico (or rum or water), egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in the melted chocolate. Then, fold in the egg whites.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:

  1. Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet until golden brown in places. Transfer to a plate to cool. (Be sure to cool completely before putting them on the cake.)
  2. In a heavy saucepan, heat the cream, Frangelico (or rum or water), and chocolate. When the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from the heat and whisk until thick enough to frost the cake.
  3. Remove the sides from the pan. (You can leave it on its base or carefully transfer it to another serving plate.)
  4. Frost the top of the cake with the frosting. Top with the cooled toasted hazelnuts.


Recipe adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

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