Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake – a brown sugar nutmeg cake with hazelnut praline buttercream and gorgeous swag buttercream piping. A new cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
Christmas always brings feelings of nostalgia and child-like wonder. And as I revel in the memories of my childhood around the holidays, it is always visions of sugarplums, snowflakes, and waltzing flowers that dance in and out of my mind. Whether in the ensemble or just a spectator, The Nutcracker has always been a part of my life this time of year.
This cake pays tribute to my love for The Nutcracker. While plums aren’t in season (the most obvious flavor for a Nutcracker-themed cake), roasted hazelnuts are more than welcome this time of year. Paired with warm brown sugar, cinnamon, and fresh nutmeg (you see where we are going with this, right?), this Hazelnut Nutcracker cake is delicately spiced and nutty in all the right ways.
The candied hazelnut brittle is seriously addictive on its own, but when ground down into a praline powder, it adds tons of flavor and texture to silky Swiss meringue buttercream. The remaining buttercream is tinted a sugared plum purple and piped onto the sides of a cake to mimic the ruffles of a tutu.
Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake
Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake – a brown sugar nutmeg cake with hazelnut praline buttercream and gorgeous swag buttercream piping.
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (3 layers)
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: Cake
For the Brown Sugar Nutmeg Cake:
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 1 ⅓ cup whole milk
For the Hazelnut Praline:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- pinch of cream of tartar
- ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch salt
For the Hazelnut Buttercream:
- 1 cup praline powder
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the Brown Sugar Nutmeg Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Mix on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla. Add in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add the oil and mix until combined (if the batter breaks, add about ½ cup of the flour mixture and mix until smooth).
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk – starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds, or until smooth.
- Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Allow cakes to completely cool before filling and frosting.
Make the Hazelnut Praline:
- Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Heat over high and bring to a boil. Continue to cook the sugar mixture until it turns a medium amber color (like making caramel sauce), and immediately remove from the heat.
- Immediately stir in the hazelnuts, cinnamon, and salt. Quickly and carefully (it will be very hot!) spread the mixture onto a silicone baking mat or piece of parchment paper. Allow to completely cool.
- Once cool, break the brittle into pieces so that they fit in a food processor. With a food processor, grind the brittle into a powder.
Make the Hazelnut Buttercream:
- Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gently whisk until combined.
- Place mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160°F on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl back to the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on high for 8 to 10 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add the butter (a couple tablespoons at a time) and mix until incorporated.
- Add vanilla. Whip on medium until silky smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove 2 ½ cups of buttercream to mix with the praline powder. Reserve the remaining buttercream to frost the cake.
Assemble the Cake:
- Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on about 1 cup of the hazelnut praline buttercream with an offset spatula until smooth. Top the next layer of cake and repeat. Place the final layer of cake and top and crumb coat the cake in a thin layer of the remaining hazelnut praline buttercream. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Tint the remaining buttercream your color of choice (if desired). Place a large dollop of buttercream on the top of the chilled cake. Spread out the buttercream with an offset spatula until smooth. For the sides of the cake, use an offset spatula to spread a bit of buttercream around the bottom edges (about 1-inch from the bottom).
- To decorate, score the cake with the edge of an icing smoother or the side of a spatula to make vertical lines every 2 to 3-inched around the cake. Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (like Wilton 1B) with buttercream. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe large swags around the cake. The tops of the swags should start and end at the vertical marks scored on the cake. Continue up the sides of the cake, piping the swages around, until the cake is covered.
- Top with Nutcracker paper toppers, if desired.
- Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Keywords: hazelnut, praline, cake
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