This cake is baked especially for my son's 13th birthday. Time really flies and he is a teenager now. A teenager with his own mind. If you ask me if I enjoy his entry into teenage years, my answer is NO. He's no longer the boy who will listen to your advice and spend time talking to you and doing things with you. He's in his own world surrounded by computer games, gadgets, social media and friends. Sigh ...... How I wish he were still a little boy. I really loved those times spent with him. So fun and adorable. Well, I cannot turn back the clock and just have to look forward and accept that he has grown up and finding his own ways and identity. I have to adjust my expectations ......
He did not want to have any celebration. So my hubby, 17-year old daughter, son and I had a simple dinner at Swensens. He had his usual favourite chicken baked rice and clam chowder soup in a bread bowl. I decided on what cake to bake for him as he had no idea what he wanted. So here comes the Royal Chocolate Praline Cake. I've been baking lots of chocolate cake and I wanted something a little different and something I've not tried before. I have a packet of hazelnuts in the fridge and I think of hazelnut praline. Mix it with chocolate and you get something like nutella. The fragrance of the caramelized toasted hazelnuts was simply inviting - burnt sugar smell with toasty nutty hazelnuts. Grind them down into powder or a paste and it is ready to be used.
This cake consists of 3 chocolate genoise sponge layers with 1 layer of chocolate ganache and 1 layer of chocolate praline ganache between them. The chocolate sponge is soaked with brandy sugar syrup and it tasted better after 1 day when the sponge has absorbed the brandy sugar syrup. The whole cake is then dressed up with chocolicious choclate glaze and decorated with toasted hazel nuts, caramelized hazelnut pieces (I left a few pieces for decoration and the rest became hazelnut praline paste) and valrhona crunchy pearls.
Verdict - the best chocolate cake according to my hubby. My sister and her family loved it too that she wants this for her birthday in October. I baked this cake twice in that week again - 1 for a combined birthday celebration with my friends and 1 for my dear golf kaki (buddy) friend Christine.
The recipe you have been waiting for .....
Chocolate Genoise (Please click here)
Use 80% of the recipe to yield a 6" square or 7" round cake.
Chocolate Ganache (Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum book)
76g bittersweet chocolate (** I used Valrhona 64% Manjari chocolate)
188g heavy cream
1 tbsp liqueur **
** You can use rum or brandy or omit it.
- Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.
- Heat the heavy cream to the boiling point and, with the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream.
- Process a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
- Gently stir in the liqueur.
- Allow to cool for several hours until of frosting consistemcy.
If you do not have a food processor, you can chop the chocolate into very small pieces. Heat the cream to boiling point and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Leave it for about 5 minutes before using a silicone spatula to gently stir the mixture evenly until all the chocolate pieces melt into the cream.
Praline Paste (Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum book)
100g hazelnuts, peeled
- Bake the hazelnuts in a 175 degree celsius oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Place them on a non-stick or lighty oiled baking sheet.
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to medium high and boil undisturbed util the sugar starts to caramelize. It will begin to look like dark corn syrup and take on the characteristic smell of burnt sugar. (The temperature should be about 187 degree celsius.)
- Immediately pour the caramel over the nuts. Allow to harden completely (15-20 minutes).
- Remove and break into pieces. Grind in a food processor until a paste forms.
** Note ** I used a mortar to break them up into very fine pieces before grinding them in a food processor. This method will prevent the blades from being overworked. Furthermore, as you pound, the fragrance emitting from the caramelized nuts is simply wonderful.
Chocolate Praline Ganache (Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum book)
56g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
35g praline paste
116g heavy cream
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of hot water. Stir often until almost completely melted.
- Remove from heat until stir until chocolate has completely melted.
- Whisk in the praline paste.
- Whisk in the heavy cream gently and continue stirring until the mixture is well blended and smooth.
- If the mixture is warm, refrigerate briefly and whisk for a few more seconds until soft peak forms when the whisk is raised. (Be careful not to overbeat as mixture will become grainy. If it becomes grainy, it can be restored by remelting, chilling and rebeating it.)
- Remove the top and bottom crust and slice the chocolate genoise into 3 equal layers.
- Place the first layer on a cake board. Sprinkle brandy sugar syrup evenly onto the cake to moisten it.
- Using an angled spatula, spread a layer of the chocolate ganache evenly over the cake. Sprinkle with crunchy chocolate pearls (I used Valrhona) to give you the crunch when you bite into the cake.
- Place the second layer of cake over the chocolate ganache. Sprinkle with brandy sugar syrup to moisten it.
- Using an angled spatula, spread a layer of the chocolate praline ganache evenly over the cake.
- Place the third layer of cake over the chocolate praline ganache. You can smoothen sides and top of the cake with the remaining ganache and refrigerate the cake while you prepare the Chocolate Cream Glaze.
Chocolate Cream Glaze (Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum book)
180g bittersweet chocolate (I used half each of 54% choc and 70% choco)
196g heavy cream
29g corn syrup
- Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and leave them in a bowl large enough to hold the glaze.
- Pour the heavy cream and corn syrup into a heavy bottom saucepan. Heat it to the boiling point and pour 3/4 of it over the chocolate.
- Cover for 5 minutes to allow chocolate to melt.
- Gently stir together until smooth, trying not to create air bubbles.
- Pass through a fine strainer into a measuring jug and allow to cool until just tepid. At this temperature, a small amount of glaze should mound a bit when dropped from a spoon before smoothly disappearing. If the glaze is too thick, add some of the remaining warm cream by the teaspoon. If glaze is too thin, gently stir in a small amount of melted chocolate.
- Remove cake from the fridge. Set the cake without the cake board on a rack set over a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil.
- Pour the glaze onto the centre of the cake, allowing the excess to flow down the sides.
- Smooth quickly and evenly with a large metal spatula, moving it lightly back and forth across the top until smooth. If any spots remain on the sides remain unglazed, use a small spatula to lift up some glaze which has fallen onto the baking sheet and apply to uncovered area.
- Lift rack and tap lightly to settle glaze.
- Refrigerate cake briefly to set the glaze before removing it onto a cake board.
- Decorate as per your own imagination.