My friends know that when there is a birthday coming up (and there usually is) to expect some sort of birthday treat. I’ve made everything from espresso blondies (maya’s favorite) to spinach artichoke dip (don’t ask…some weird people don’t like sweets). A few weeks ago I decided to tackle something new for my friend Abby’s birthday: a double layer cake. This wasn’t just any double layer cake. It was a chocolate cake with a Nutella espresso mousse.
The best part? I lied. Okay, lying is not good. But in the name of a birthday surprise it is a very good thing. Abby knew I was baking something, but I wanted to save it for her surprise party. So I told her it wouldn’t be ready, and then when she showed up she was shocked to see a beautiful–if I do say so myself–chocolatey birthday cake.
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Layer Cake
I wasn’t quite as ambitious as the original recipe so I decided to bake only two layers instead of splitting them in half after baking.
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (note: if you don’t have buttermilk, substitute with sour cream or milk with a few teaspoons of lemon juice)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, salt and cocoa and mix together.
3) In a separate bowl combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.
4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry, preferably with a mixer on low.
5) Stir in the coffee.
6) Pour mixture into two 8″ pans or two different size pans in my case. It all works out–just be sure to adjust cooking time depending on cake thickness. Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven.
Important: allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing the cake from the pan. Otherwise you’ll lose part of the bottom and be forced to eat it. Not pretty. In the event that you do loose a chunk of the cake, don’t stress because the mousse will help even it out.
Hazelnut Mousse and Nutella Coffee Topping
*Note: this may not be enough mousse if you decide to do a 4-layer cake.
2 cups or 1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup Nutella or Hazelnut spread
3 tbsp hot water
3 tsp espresso powder
1) Add the espresso in hot water, mixing until dissolved.
2) Add the Nutella, beating until reaching a smooth consistency.
3) With a mixer (definitely necessary) whip the cream until stiff peaks form. To test for peaks, stop the mixer when the cream begins to get firm and pull the beater gently upwards. If the cream pulls out of the bowl with the beater and doesn’t immediately fall, you’ve got peaks!
4) Gently fold the Nutella mixture into the whipped cream.
It is much easier to put any type of frosting on a cake that isn’t crumbly. Solution: freeze the cakes briefly before mousse-ing them. Otherwise wait until they are thoroughly cooled or the mousse will melt. Put a thick layer of mousse between the two layers and a thick layer on top as well. I decided to do the sides as well, but you can use your artistic vision here.
For the garnish on top, combine about 2 tbsp of Nutella (what you’ll have leftover) and some leftover coffee. Spoon a small amount of coffee into the Nutella until it is thin enough to drizzle but not watery. Then drizzle on top of the cake and down the sides. Finish off with semi or bittersweet chocolate shavings if desired.
On the topic of birthday surprises, happy birthday Mom! I surprised her this weekend by coming home–with homemade granola bars in tow (recipe for those coming soon). I had to promise not to put these photos “on the Internet,” but I’m pretty sure that was a euphemism for Facebook so I think I’m safe. Besides, who knew she looked so glamorous in a sombrero?