Despite my best efforts to nibble away at a collection of recently acquired cookbooks, the stack stands tall enough to function as an end table in my living room. I actually read my cookbooks, which when I share this tidbit of information with certain people, their faces kind of screw up into this look of part confusion and part disbelief. Give a person who is passionate about food a cookbook, and they will devour it from cover to cover. It’s not just about the recipes and photos alone. Actually , some of my favorites are the ones that have no photos at all. They are the books that transport me to a time long ago or on a journey to distant places that I may never have the opportunity to experience any other way. In actuality, I’m not all that particular. If it’s a book and it’s about food, especially baking, it garners my attention.
Another reason it has taken me so long to make a dent in the stack of publications that has now become H’s favorite place to sit a wet glass, (what is it with the lack of coaster etiquette these days?) is because I welcome each one as a new friend into my home. I want them to feel special, and appreciated, and pampered. One by one they get my attention, and unless I have the time to devote, they must wait for a rainy day, quiet evening, or a lazy weekend.
While I was home visiting with my sister over the Christmas holiday, I spent some leisurely hours in front of the fire and ate up the pages of One Girl Cookies. There is a love story to be found within the covers of Dawn Casale and David Crofton‘s book; a love for each other and a love of baking that took Dawn from the confines of her home kitchen to opening her own neighborhood bakery in Brooklyn. Her story is what baking dreams are made of – at least what my baking dreams are made of. And the recipes – well, there was no reason to dog-ear the pages of my favorites because there wasn’t a recipe in the book I wouldn’t make.
I must confess that although I gave One Girl Cookies much time and attention while I was on vacation, once home, it landed on the stack along with all the other food and baking books I had received as gifts over the holidays. And as life would have it, I got busy and did not have the time to return to it until just this week. My sister was as enamored with the book as I was and copied the recipe for Rich Chocolate Cake before I absconded with it back to LA. She has made that cake recipe more than once and in varying ways. After bending my ear over and over again about how much she loves this cake, about how moist and chocolatey it is, I finally decided it was time to try it for myself. There was good reason for Bec to rave as much as she had. I will also be making this cake over and over again.
In her book, Dawn presents this cake topped with dulce de leche and hazelnut brittle which takes a luscious and moist chocolate cake right to the top. She also suggests a slathering of mocha frosting as an alternative to the dulce de leche. I thought – why not both – which took this cake over the top and right to WOW!
Chocolate Cake with Salty Hazelnut Brittle and Mocha Buttercream
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee or 2 tablespoons espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dulce de leche
Salty Hazelnut Brittle – recipe below
Mocha Frosting – recipe below
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper.
Pour the hot coffee into a medium bowl and stir in the cocoa powder until it dissolves. Stir in the brown sugar, followed by the yogurt and the vanilla. Stir thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are incorporated.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and mix for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour and coffee mixtures, alternating between the two, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrap down the bowl between each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment, and turn the cake back over onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
Finish the Cake
In a food processor, pulse the brittle pieces several times until most pieces are the size of coffee beans with some larger pieces remaining. Microwave the dulce de leche on high power for 15 to 30 seconds or just until spreadable. Spread the dulce de leche over the top of the cake. Using a pastry bag and a large decorating tip, decorate around the edge of the cake with the Mocha Buttercream. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the ground Hazelnut Brittle inside the buttercream edge. Use the larger pieces of the brittle to embellish the buttercream.
1/2 cup whole unsalted hazelnuts, skins removed
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt or fleur de sel
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Put the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Let cool.
Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk the sugar and corn syrup, and bring to a boil. Continue whisking constantly until the syrup is a rich medium amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda. Stir in the hazelnuts and then pour the contents of the pan onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it out into a thin layer. Immediately sprinkle with the sea salt. Let the brittle cool completely. Break the brittle into 2-inch pieces. The brittle will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/4 hot water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Generous pinch of salt
4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water. Let cool
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the espresso, vanilla extract, salt, and 3 cups of the confectioners’s sugar. Beat until well combined. Add the remaining cup of sugar and beat until combined and smooth. The buttercream can be held at room temperature for several hours if well covered. It can be made a day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and lightly whip before using.
Yield: 12 to 14 servings
Source: One Girl Cookie by Dawn Casale and David Crofton