When I first starting writing this recipe and thinking about how to make it for the shoot for Winter Cabin Cooking, I confessed I was slightly daunted. All my research showed these amazingly delicate layer cakes with perfect frosting which, I though, I could never achieve let alone on a shoot day with 7 other dishes to prepare! How wrong I was! When I came to test this recipe I realised just how simple it is, no really, it IS! Yes it takes time, you have to make the layers and there is chilling involved but nothing about it was difficult or panic inducing. Once I got over my initial shock as to how many layers this cake needed and succumbed to its making I found it to be a simple cake masquerading as a technical challenge.
It is a fabulous dessert style cake that any weekend baker should try, I urge you to give it a go and see for yourselves!
I love the way this cake looks with its spiders web icing and they way it cuts to reveal it's layered insides.
For the sponge
400g blanched hazelnuts
3tbsp plain flour
9 egg whites
200g caster sugar
for the filling
9 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
225g unsalted butter, softened
20g cocoa powder
for the top
3tbsp apricot jam
40g dark chocolate
3tsp vegetable oil
300g icing sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 160c fan 140. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Cool and then blitz in a food processor till roughly chopped. Take out 150g and set aside. Add the flour into the food processor and blitz again to a fine crumb.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until it reaches stiff peaks then whisk in the sugar, a bit at a time until you have a smooth glossy meringue. Fold in the hazelnut and meringue mixture. Line baking sheets with parchment and draw on 5 x 20cm circles. Divide the meringue mixture between the circles and spread evenly then bake for 16 minutes until golden brown and not sticky to the touch. You may need to do this in batches but let the baking sheets cool in between batches if you do. Allow to cool somewhere flat.
Make the filling. Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl with the vanilla extract and place over a bowl of barely simmering water and whisk with an electric hand whisk until pale and voluminous. Remove from the water and whisk for a few more minutes then leave to cool completely. Beat the butter until really light and fluffy then fold in the cooled egg mixture and the cocoa powder.
Peel all the meringues off their parchment. Place one on a clean piece of baking paper on a baking sheet and spread with about a quarter of the buttercream. Top with another meringue and layer up in this fashion, ending with a meringue. Save a little of the icing and spread around the outside of the cake. Top with another piece of parchment then place a baking sheet on top. Weigh down with a couple of cans and chill for an hour.
Melt the apricot jam in a pan with a tbsp of water then push through a sieve until smooth. Place the chilled cake on a cake plate, still on its bottom layer of parchment. Spread the apricot jam over the top. Chill for a little.
Melt the chocolate with half the oil in a small bowl over simmering water. Pour into a small disposable piping bag and set aside.
Whisk the icing sugar and lemon together with the rest of the vegetable oil then gradually add warm water a little at a time until you have a smooth spreadable glaze.
Pour about half the glaze over the cake and smooth out – don’t worry if it drips down the side. You can add more glaze if you need to, you want to create a really smooth layer. Snip a small hole at the bottom of the chocolate piping bag and pipe a spiral of chocolate over the icing.
You now need to make the lines. Use the tip of a sharp knife to drag 6 lines from the centre of the cake to the outside. Then in between each out ward -line, drag the tip of the knife back into the centre of the cake. You should end up with a spider’s web effect.
Clean the sides of the cake with the sides of a spatula and then press the reserved 100g of chopped hazelnuts all around the edge.
Carefully remove the parchment and pop back on your cake plate and you are ready to serve.