Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeI spent this past weekend celebrating my little sister, Eliot’s 30th birthday. We ate breakfast tacos and went to our first game at Fenway Park and laughed til we cried at least once. We also put on one hell of a birthday party in her Cambridge, MA, apartment, complete with lots of friends, a batch of salsa, and two of these Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cakes.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeEliot didn’t specifically ask for this cake. When we started talking about her birthday a few weeks ago, she said she’d be perfectly happy with Fluffernutter Sandwich Cookies or the Winning Hearts & Minds Cake we both love so much. After her summer in India, she’s discovered that maybe wheat isn’t for her, so her main request was that whatever I made be gluten-free. That was easy enough—I am all about flourless cakes. And chocolate and hazelnut is her favorite sweet flavor combination, so here we are.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeY’all, this Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is like a combination between a fudgy brownie and a jar of Nutella. Chocolate hazelnut overload! It’s very simple to put together and only has six ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, hazelnuts, eggs, butter, sugar, and salt. Yep, that’s all it takes to make this cake, but as with most recipes that have minimal ingredients, each one must be handled with care.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe chocolate has to be melted and cooled to room temperature.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe hazelnuts have to be toasted before having their skins removed and being blitzed into a fine meal.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe eggs need to be separated and the whites have to be whipped to stiff peaks.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeYes, all of that must be done before the batter can be put together. None of those steps are difficult or time-consuming, but they are completely necessary—no shortcuts here!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeTo make the batter, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks and hazelnut meal before adding the chocolate. Stir 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the batter before carefully folding in the rest 1/4 at a time. Pour it all into a buttered, parchment-lined cake pan and bake it just until a tester comes out clean.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeInvert it onto a foil-lined plate.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeRevert it onto a serving dish (or your favorite cake stand).

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeEliot wanted her cake served with a dusting of confectioners sugar, but I prefer it with a puddle of ganache and some more toasted, skinned hazelnuts.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeSlice it up and try not to eat the whole thing.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThis Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is truly phenomenal. Chocolaty, hazelnutty (it’s a word today, okay?!), rich, but not too heavy—basically everything you want in a decadent dessert! Between testing, partying, and blogging, I’ve made five of these in the past week, and I am still having a hard time not sneaking bites and evening out edges.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeBasically, what I’m saying is make this, and/or come take cake #5 away from me 🙂🙃

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeHappy birthday, Smel!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
makes one 9-inch cake

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate)
6 ounces (1 heaping cup) whole raw hazelnuts 
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
1 cup granulated sugar

Garnish:
3 ounces (heaping 1/2 cup) whole raw hazelnuts
7 tablespoons heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt bittersweet chocolate. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.

Place hazelnuts on a dry, rimmed sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Immediately transfer hazelnuts to a clean, dry, textured hand towel. Fold towel around the hazelnuts and then rub the towel with the palm of your hand. This will allow the hazelnut skins to loosen. This step does not have to be done perfectly.

Transfer hazelnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms. Set aside.

Place egg whites and salt in a very clean, dry large mixing bowl. Use a very clean, dry electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until combined. Add egg yolks three at a time, mixing to combine. Add hazelnut meal in two installments, followed by room-temperature melted chocolate.

Use a silicone spatula to add 1/4 of the whipped egg whites to the batter, stirring as much as necessary to get them to incorporate.

Continue adding the whipped egg whites in 1/4 increments, gently folding them into the batter.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake 23-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Top may still be a bit jiggly, but it will set as the cake cools. Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Release the cake. Line a dinner plate with foil. Dip a small knife in warm water and slowly run it around the edge of the pan, dipping again as necessary, to loosen the cake. Place the dinner plate, foil-side down, on top of the cake pan. Holding on to both the pan and the plate, quickly flip them over. Remove the pan and the parchment. Gently place a serving plate, top-side down, onto the bottom of the cake. Holding tightly to both plates (but not so much as to crush the cake), quickly revert. Remove the foil-lined dinner plate.

Prepare the garnish. Place hazelnuts on a dry, rimmed sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Immediately transfer hazelnuts to a clean, dry, textured hand towel. Fold towel around the hazelnuts and then rub the towel with the palm of your hand. This will allow the hazelnut skins to loosen. Set aside to cool completely.

Warm cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, just until it simmers. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed until chocolate looks soft. Stir with a fork until smooth. Spread or drizzle ganache over the cake. Dot with toasted hazelnuts, as desired.

Chocolate will set a bit after 20 minutes. Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to three.

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}For a baking blogger, I sure haven’t baked much lately. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to–no, I always want to bake–but because I’ve been so crazy busy. Eliot was here, I went to Texas, my best friend from college was in town, I turned 32…I simply haven’t had the time!

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}My last three recipes haven’t required an oven at all. I’m not complaining though; I’ve been enjoying lots of Iced Matcha Lattes, Whole Wheat Pancakes, and Key Lime Pie Popsicles lately 😊

But enough about that. Today, let’s get back to baking.

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}Cheesecake Brownies are a classic for a reason–who can resist a fudgy brownie swirled with a layer of creamy cheesecake?! Add to that that this recipe is completely grain-free, thanks to my spin on Katharine Hepburn Brownies, and you’ve got a surefire crowdpleaser for all your cookouts this summer!Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}

Cheesecake Brownies {Grain-Free}
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 brownies

Cheesecake:
8 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Brownies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place oven racks in the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together until smooth. Let cool slightly before transferring to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by eggs and vanilla. Mix in cocoa powder and salt. Reserve 1/3 cup of batter in a small bowl.

Transfer the rest of the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of cheesecake over the top, followed by spoonfuls of the reserved brownie batter. Swirl with a small, thin knife. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles and distribute. Cover pan with foil. Bake on the top rack for 20 minutes. Uncover pan. Bake on the bottom rack for an additional 20-30 minutes, until cheesecake just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Refrigerate in the pan for four hours (or overnight). Use foil overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice and serve.

Leftover Cheesecake Brownies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}A few weeks ago, my boss asked me to cater a small engagement dinner for two of her friends. Normally, my job consists of grocery shopping and making dinner for her, her husband, and twin teenage boys, but every once in a while, she’ll ask me to pull out the big guns and cater a party. This wasn’t my first rodeo (I cater frequently for different people and organizations around Brooklyn), but this party had me a little nervous.

You see, the grooms-to-be are paleo. As in, they don’t eat grains, legumes, sugar, or dairy, among other things. I am used to having specific guidelines when I cook for others, but they’re usually something akin to “cut the salt” or “no nightshades,” not “cut out four food groups.”

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}I spent the days leading up to the party scouring the Internet for dinner party-worthy paleo recipes. I was apprehensive about choosing any of them–I am not paleo and don’t know many people who ascribe to that lifestyle, so I really felt like I was walking in blind. After much agonizing and many frantic late-night emails to my boss, I settled on this paleo Shrimp & Grits recipe (which is fantastic, by the way). One thing I didn’t have to worry about was dessert. I had seen a paleo cheesecake on Brown Eyed Baker several months before, and knew it would be perfect topped with ripe peaches. It was such a huge hit with the guests of honor that I knew I had to put it on here.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}This Peachy Paleo Cheesecake is vegan, grain-free, and refined sugar-free, but is definitely still dessert. It’s sweet and creamy, with a nutty cinnamon-spiced date crust, and a topping of sliced late-summer peaches and a drizzle of maple syrup. It may not be anything like traditional cheesecake, but it is really delicious.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}Let’s talk ingredients. As you may have gathered, this cheesecake contains no actual cheese. Here, the smooth and creamy filling comes from a combination of coconut cream, coconut oil, and cashews that have been soaked in water. When those three ingredients are combined in a food processor with some Grade B maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and a touch of salt, the result is ultra-velvety, coconut-scented magic.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}The filling gets poured over a simple three-ingredient crust. To make the crust, combine 13 dates, a cup of almonds, and four tablespoons of cinnamon* in the bowl of your food processor. Whirl everything until the almonds are completely broken down, and the mixture holds together when you pinch it between your fingers. Then press it into an even layer on the bottom of a springform pan and top it with the filling.

*Yes, I said four tablespoons of cinnamon. When I first made this recipe, I thought that had to be a typo, but it’s not. I promise that this crust is not overly-spiced.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}This cheesecake requires a long chill: eight hours in the refrigerator. It will seem absolutely endless. Lucky for you, I am the queen of impatience when it comes to waiting for my desserts to set up, so I found a little shortcut. The cake pictured was frozen for two hours after assembly, and looked and acted just like the paleo cheesecakes I’ve chilled in the refrigerator. Once your cheesecake is nice and cold, top it with sliced peaches (or any fruit you like) and drizzle it with a little more maple syrup!

This Peachy Paleo Cheesecake is delightfully smooth and creamy, with a crumbly crust and delicious fresh peaches. It’s absolutely delicious and guaranteed to be a hit with your paleo and non-paleo friends alike! Peaches will only be in season for a few more weeks, but I already have plans to try this recipe with sliced pears over the coming months.

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}Let me know if you try this or any of my other recipes! I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter @e2bakesbrooklyn 💗

Peachy Paleo Cheesecake {Vegan & Grain-Free}
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
makes one 9-inch round cheesecake

Crust:
13 Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw almonds
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Filling:
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 14 ounce can coconut cream* (not cream of coconut)
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup (or raw honey)
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

Topping:
2 large peaches, thinly sliced
Grade B maple syrup (or raw honey), for drizzling

Place cashews in a small Tupperware. Cover with water. Refrigerate for 4-12 hours.

Place coconut cream in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours.

Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil.

Make the crust. Combine dates, almonds, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor, and process until the almonds are broken down (about 15-20 seconds). Mixture will look dry, but should hold together when pinched. Pour crust mixture into prepared pan, and press it to the edges to form an even layer. Set aside.

Wash and dry the food processor, or wipe it out very well with a paper towel.

Make the filling. Drain cashews and place them in the food processor. Open coconut cream. Scoop the chilled cream from the top of the can, and discard the water accumulated in the bottom. Add coconut cream, maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt to the food processor. Process until the mixture is completely smooth. With the food processor running, drizzle coconut oil through the feed tube. Continue processing until everything is fully combined.

Pour filling mixture over crust. Refrigerate for 8 hours (or freeze for 2 hours). Release the cheesecake from the springform pan, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Top with sliced peaches and a drizzle of maple syrup, and serve immediately.

Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Note:

If you cannot find coconut cream, use two 13.5-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk. Chill them and scoop off the coconut cream, as written in the recipe.

Katharine Hepburn Brownies {Grain-Free}

 It always surprises people when they find out I went to film school.

I mean, I get why. I’ve never actually worked in the film industry, and I spend literally all my time baking, photographing, writing about, and serving food. It’s my whole life. Even while I spent six years learning about film production, I was mostly thinking about what I was going to make for dinner when I finally got back to my Upper West Side apartment. I watched equal amounts of Martin Scorsese films and The Barefoot Contessa. On the chance that someone’s shoot needed a craft services person, I was their girl. Getting class credit for roasting chickens and making salads? I was in heaven!

While my interest in film production was essentially gone by the time I graduated, my love for great movies has stayed strong (as has my love for cooking and baking, obviously). I still live for all things Scorsese, DeNiro, and DiCaprio, but when I need comfort, I go for anything with Katharine Hepburn. 

I am a diehard fan of her work–my personal favorites are Woman of the Year and The Philadelphia Story. I also love that she was a woman with a lot of opinions (something we have in common). She wore pants at a time when it was unacceptable for women to do so. She loved fiercely–the way she spoke about Spencer Tracy, her friends and family…💗💗💗😭 And, of course, she had opinions about food, namely brownies.

Ms. Hepburn was once gifted some brownies by her neighbors, and seeing that they were cakey instead of fudgy, she sent them her personal recipe instead of a thank you note! The recipe soon appeared in The New York Times and has since made its way around the Internet. And for good reason: these brownies are dense and fudgy, extra chocolaty, and studded with chopped nuts. 

Being a woman with a lot of opinions myself, I just had to mess with Katharine Hepburn’s recipe…but not too much. I added a touch of light brown sugar to the melted chocolate and butter base, and added some vanilla to round out the flavor. Being the good Texan girl I am, I swapped the walnuts for pecans. But the biggest change I made? I replaced the 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour with cocoa powder, making these brownies completely grain-free! I love when a recipe can feed my friends with allergies and specific diets.

The results speak for themselves. These brownies are super rich and full of chocolate flavor, and not even the slightest bit cakey. Fudgy brownie lovers won’t be able to get enough! And while I know Ms. Hepburn loved her own recipe, I think she’d approve of my version, too.

Want more brownies? Check out my Cocoa Brownies!

Katharine Hepburn Brownies {Grain-Free}
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
makes one 8×8″ pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8×8″ rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together until smooth. Let cool slightly before transferring to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by eggs and vanilla. Mix in cocoa powder and salt. Fold in chopped nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, before slicing and serving.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake {Grain-Free}

 My little sister, Eliot (“E3”), came in town last week. While I’ve been busy trying to make my life happen in New York for the last eight or so years, she’s graduated from college, moved to Austin, worked as an engineer, become a yoga teacher, and applied and gotten into her top two choices for graduate school. One of them is Ivy League.

Sorry Eliot, had to brag…more. 

Out of all my immediate family, she has definitely visited me the most. Eliot’s probably been here fifteen times since I left Texas. As you can imagine, that means that we’ve been to every tourist attraction, hit a couple of Broadway shows, eaten at all the fancy restaurants, walked the Highline, and played a multi-hour game of mini-golf on Randall’s Island.

Tip: don’t challenge the captain of the high school golf team to a game of mini-golf. You will lose. You will lose hard

As Eliot’s come to see me so many times now, there’s not much touring left on her list. The entirety of what she wanted to do while she was here? Get some coffee at Sahadi’s, grab some Gorilla Coffee for our dad, and eat at MOB, a vegan restaurant in one of my old neighborhoods. And we did all of those things…but that didn’t take up much of our three days together, so we got creative instead. 

  We did a lot of weird stuff. She came to work with me twice (bless my amazing boss for giving me the kind of job where I can do that!). She tutored a nine year-old on fractions. We did cartwheels on the playground with said nine year-old. We swung on swings. We went thrifting and tried on vintage pearl snaps. We went to an impromptu St. Patrick’s Day dinner hosted by my friend, Claire. We ate barbecue with pretty much everyone I know. Heck, we even had a little dinner party. 

But in all that, we baked too. I had two cake orders while she was here: one carrot, and one of these Winning Hearts and Minds Cakes. Eliot isn’t much for carrot cake (she eats it mostly for the cream cheese frosting), but the girl loooooves chocolate. She was so enamored of the fudgy chocolate cake we delivered that I put it on the menu for our little dinner party. Paired with a double recipe of Everyday Cassoulet and a salad, it was a hit. 

 This cake is not even really a cake. Technically, it’s a torte. It’s completely grain-free, and made almost entirely of bittersweet chocolate, European butter, sugar, and eggs. It’s super rich and fudgy, best served in small slices with a spoonful of ice cream (E3’s recommendation) or whipped cream. The chocolate drizzle is optional, but I think it brings this already divine little cake over the top. It’s perfect for dinner parties, birthdays, holidays…Molly Wizenberg even served it at her wedding.

No matter when or why you make this cake, it’s sure to please. And if you get to make it (twice!) with your favorite person in the world, all the better. 

 Winning Hearts and Minds Cake {Grain-Free}
slightly adapted from Orangette
makes one 9-inch round cake

Cake:
7 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate*, chopped
7 ounces unsalted European-style butter*, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Chocolate Drizzle:
2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

For Serving:
lightly-sweetened whipped cream (optional)
vanilla or coffee ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment, and grease with butter. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt dark chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Whisk in sugar. Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk in one egg at a time, combining completely after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.

Line a plate with aluminum foil. Turn cake onto lined plate. Place a serving plate top-down onto the bottom of the cake. Holding on tightly to both plates (but not so tightly as to crush the cake), flip the cake to be right side-up on the un-lined plate. Let cool completely at room temperature.

Make the chocolate drizzle. In a double boiler or the microwave, melt chocolate and coconut oil together until smooth. Using a squeeze bottle or a fork, drizzle over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to set.

Serve cake in small slices, cold or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Cake will keep at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for three.

Notes:

1. You may use any good-quality bittersweet chocolate you like. I have used Guittard on many occasions, but am currently partial to Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% Dark Chocolate.
2. I use Kerrygold, Finlandia, or Lurpak, but use whichever European-style unsalted butter you prefer.