Blackberry and Hazelnut Layer Cake with White Chocolate
RECIPE AND PHOTOS BY PAOLA THOMAS
It’s that time of year when we’re clinging desperately to the last golden vestiges of summer, but getting ready for the warm earthy flavors of fall. This cake elegantly bridges the seasons, making use of the final berries of summer while incorporating autumn’s first hazelnuts. Sometimes the in-between season can be the most delicious.
The frosting here is a perfect vehicle for the tart, smeary spoils of blackberry picking, as unblemished shapely fruits are not required (you could even use frozen berries, just make sure to thaw and let them drain thoroughly first). The cake is a traditional English sponge but incorporates local hazelnut flour, which mellows the sweetness and marries perfectly with white chocolate. We’ve including the chocolate chips as an optional addition—they add an undertone of vanilla and our kid tasters adored them—but feel free to leave out if you prefer a less sweet cake.
This recipe makes enough for 3 7-inch layers, 2 8-inch layers or 18 cupcakes
FOR THE CAKE
serves: 10-12 | start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes (active time: 50 mins)
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus a little extra for greasing the pans)
1 1/4 cups baker’s sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hazelnut flour
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces good quality white chocolate chips (optional)
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream as necessary
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease each cake pan with butter and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper that has been cut to fit, or line muffin pans with cupcake liners.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light, fluffy and very pale (3-5 minutes).
Measure the flour, baking powder, salt, and hazelnut flour into a bowl and use a whisk to combine thoroughly.
Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one by one, adding one tablespoon of the flour mixture for each egg and beating thoroughly between each addition. If the batter appears to be splitting and curdling (it will look grainy), beat some more and add a little more flour. It’s not a catastrophe if you can’t get it to uncurdle, however, the cake will just rise a little less.
When all the eggs are incorporated, add the vanilla extract and gently fold in the remainder of the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips, if using.
This recipe is based on a traditional English sponge cake recipe and is not as liquid as a normal American cake batter. At this stage the batter should resemble a very light mousse. To test it, scoop up a spoonful using a metal spoon and point the spoon downwards, if it slides off the spoon reluctantly after a few seconds, it is the correct ‘dropping consistency.’ If it doesn’t slide off, fold in a tablespoon of milk or cream and test again. Keep adding the liquid in small increments until the batter slides off.
Divide the batter evenly between your cake pans or cupcake liners (if you intend to make a layered cake as shown here, a kitchen scale can be useful to make sure your amounts are equal). Gently spread the mixture out to the sides of the pan with a spoon or offset spatula, making sure the top is even.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the cake is a deep golden brown and the cake is starting to shrink away from the sides of the pan. (15-20 minutes for cupcakes).
Let the layers cool in their pans for 10-15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack. Carefully peel the greased parchment paper off the bottom.
FOR THE FROSTING
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon salt (optional, or use salted butter)
6-8 ounces of blackberries, lightly crushed with a fork (reserve a few of the prettiest to decorate)
Place the butter in a bowl or in the work bowl of your stand mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, beating with an electric mixer until fully combined, then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is very pale, soft and fluffy (3-5 minutes, depending on how cold your ingredients were to start). Then gently stir in the crushed blackberries to create a marbled effect.
Generously swirl the frosting between the layers and over the top of your cake with a knife or offset spatula and decorate with the reserved berries or toasted and chopped hazelnuts.