Nigel Slater's chocolate praline celebration cake
- 250g soft butter
- 400g golden caster sugar
- 225g blanched hazelnuts
- 125g dark chocolate
- 4 large eggs
- 125g self-raising flour
- 4 tsp strong espresso
- crystallised rose petals, homemade or bought, to finish
- For the buttercream:
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1½ tbsp brandy
- 200g butter
- 200g icing sugar
- 6 tbsp hazelnut chocolate spread
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Lightly grease a 20-21cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
- Cut the butter into small chunks and put it with 250g of the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, then beat till white and fluffy.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat. Cool, then grind 75g of the nuts (reserve the rest for later) to a coarse powder, less finely than ground almonds, but finer than they would be if you chopped them by hand.
- Chop the chocolate into what looks like coarse gravel.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them gently. Slowly add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time – it may curdle slightly, but it doesn’t matter. Stop the machine.
- Tip in half the ground nuts and half the flour, beat briefly at a slow speed, stop the machine again, then add the rest of the ground nuts and flour, together with the chopped chocolate and mix briefly.
- Fold in the espresso gently, taking care not to knock the air from the cake mixture, then scoop into the lined cake tin. Smooth the top and bake for 45-50 minutes, covering with tin foil for the last 10 minutes if the top is colouring too quickly.
- Remove the cake from the oven and test with a skewer – you want it to come out moist but clean, without any uncooked cake mixture clinging to it.
- Leave the cake to cool a little in its tin before turning out and peeling the baking paper from its bottom.
- For the buttercream, blitz the maple syrup, vanilla pod and brandy in a small processor till the pod is very finely chopped (or put in a jug and use a stick blender). Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- For the praline, first make a caramel. Tip the remaining 150g of caster sugar into a nonstick frying pan. Leave for a minute or two to melt and darken, avoiding the temptation to stir.
- As soon as it is deep amber in colour, add the reserved toasted hazelnuts and gently move them around the pan so they are lightly covered with caramel. Tip on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper and leave to set.
- Break the hazelnut praline into pieces and blitz half to coarse, grit-like crumbs in a food processor.
- To make the buttercream, using the flat paddle attachment of a food mixer, beat the 200g of butter until soft, then add the icing sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and creamy.
- Pour the vanilla-infused maple syrup through a sieve into the buttercream (discard the vanilla pod pulp), along with half the blitzed praline and, lastly, the chocolate hazelnut spread, mixing briefly but thoroughly.
- To assemble the cake, using a large, long-bladed cook’s knife, carefully slice the cake in half horizontally. Transfer the bottom half to a cake stand and spread a third of the buttercream over it. Place the second half of the cake on top.
- Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake using a palette knife, then gently press the reserved blitzed praline into the sides. Top with the remaining praline, crumbled, and some crystallised rose petals.
You can buy crystallised rose petals at janeasher.com