If I could live off any hot beverage, it would be coffee. Being Irish, I am also an avid tea drinker, but nothing compares to that first hit of good espresso first thing in the morning. I can’t go without it. It has become a bit of an obsession and is firmly rooted in my morning routine.
I started using coffee in desserts years ago, it pairs particularly well with chocolate and most nuts, and the bitterness works perfectly with anything mild or moderately sweet. I entered a chocolate competition a few years ago and it was a given that coffee played a role in my (winning) dessert. I can’t get enough of the stuff, and I love finding new ways to use it or new combinations to pair it with.
This coffee and hazelnut cake is simple and classic in concept but unbelievably flavoursome and full of delicious textures. Coffee cake is one of my favourite cakes. Here, instead of baking a coffee-flavoured sponge, I am using hazelnut as my base flavour, and accenting it with notes of coffee throughout the sponge and the buttercream frosting.
The hazelnut sponge is a gamechanger; very moist and very light, with deep, toasty, nutty notes. It uses hazelnut paste to give a smooth texture. You can find it in some health food shops, but if you can’t get hold of it, use a jar of hazelnut butter, or make your own by blending toasted hazelnuts for three to five minutes to make a paste.
The icing is a coffee and hazelnut buttercream, whipped until pale and soft. There is a little coffee extract and coffee liqueur in this cake, which really pack that espresso punch. They add a rich deep flavour without adding too much liquid, as freshly brewed coffee could potentially change the texture of the baked sponge.
The cake is finished with retro swirls of piped buttercream and a crunchy sweet hazelnut praline. I make a quick caramel by swirling some sugar in a saucepan over a medium to high heat until beautifully golden, and then adding some chopped toasted hazelnuts to make a hazelnut praline. The cooled clusters of caramelised hazelnuts are then chopped and sprinkled on top to give a nugget of sweet crunch in every bite.
Recipe: Coffee praline cake
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