Chocolate Hazelnut Cake for Ben (and Nutella Lovers)

This layered chocolate hazelnut cake is a rich, grain-free, gluten-free dessert for those with a taste for Nutella.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting //

The Food: Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting

Are you sensing a flavor theme? The combination of hazelnut and almond flours yields a moist, grain-free crumb (I realize that, sadly, not everyone shares my zeal for grains).  I tend to use Rigoni di Asiago’s dairy-free hazelnut and cocoa spread instead of Nutella because the ingredients are straightforward and mostly organic. The garnishes were a gift from my friends’ garden.

Birthday Festivities //

The Personal: For Ben, Belated Posts & Cake Memories

As I write this, my exuberant friend Ben celebrates another trip around the sun. While we are on opposite coasts at the moment, I look forward to baking him a belated birthday cake in the near future because dessert is my love language.

This cake was from one year ago. It’s a belated post because I was busy living, busy saying yes to adventures that pushed me beyond my comfort levels. Belated because I chose to rest. Belated because I didn’t quite have the right words yet.

“Belated” could be an alternative title for this blog it seems, but everything comes at its due time. The due time for sharing this cake was one year later: a chocolate-hazelnut bookend. Revisiting these cake memories has been my way of reminiscing and celebrating Ben’s special day until we can celebrate together.

A year later, my mouth is watering thinking about the taco party we created. A year later, I’m still amused by the way Josh spun Ben violently for the piñata attack (that pinata never stood a chance!). I’m still amused by the goofy sheepdog puppy with the Italian name, who is surely a huge ball of fluff by now.

A year later, I am grateful for the deepening of my friendship with Ben. I find so much comfort in his laugh, his emotional depth, his ceaseless curiosity, the breadth of his knowledge, and the way he radiates. I am grateful for his kind encouragement and empathetic ear. I am especially grateful for the enthusiasm he has offered me with each new phase of my relationship, and the way he welcomed Dylan with wide-open arms.

One year ago, I made a cake. We made tacos. We played like caffeinated kids, and we filled the ensuing days, weeks, and months with the most imaginative gatherings, heartfelt conversations, and a deep bond.

Perhaps “belated” is just a deeper perspective in disguise.

Here’s to you, Ben!

Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh //

Happy Birthday Ben //

Furry Friend //

Cake in the Garden //

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cake w/ Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting //

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cake w/ Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting //

Happy Birthday Ben //

Happy Birthday Ben //

The Mint ‘n Maple Corner:

In keeping with this “belated” theme, here’s a pic of the times when it was just Julep and me. Though I’m sure she misses having all the attention to herself, I do think deep down she’s happy to have Maple in our pack. In addition to her role as my spiritual guru, she was serving as my scale figure for my bulk almond flour at the time. We go through a lot of flour around these parts.

Julep, the scale figure //

You Might Also Like: Creamy Amaranth Cupcakes

If you’re still craving chocolate, you might like this idea from my book, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook. The recipe is for Creamy Chocolate Amaranth Cupcakes with a side of Bourbon-Whipped Crème Fraîche. Akin to a cheese or charcuterie board, the recipe includes tips and tricks to create this spread for DIY cupcake toppings. It’s delicious and interactive.

Creamy Amaranth Cupcakes from "The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook" //

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting

Course: Dessert
Keyword: gluten-free


For the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake:

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup raw cacao
  • 2/3 cup hot espresso or instant coffee dissolved in hot water
  • 1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips/chunks
  • 1 ⅓ cups unsalted butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed organic brown sugar
  • 1 cup almond meal, sifted
  • 1 cup hazelnut meal, sifted

For the Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp coffee liqueur
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nocciolata )
  • 1 Tbsp cream
  • pinch of salt

To Garnish

  • fresh berries
  • fresh flowers
  • fresh mint


For the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 3 8-inch rounds, or you can stagger cake sizes for a more tiered effect like the cake picture.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  • In a graduated measuring cup, whisk together the cacao and espresso/coffee until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, watching carefully and stirring to ensure they do not burn. Remove from heat. Add the espresso mixture and the brown sugar, and whisk to combine.
  • In the stand mixer, use the whisk attachment to combine the almond flour, hazelnut flour, and egg yolks. Gently fold in the egg whites, in three additions.
  • Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
  • Bake until a cake tester comes out clean with a few crumbs, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before removing from the pans. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.

For the Frosting:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the powdered sugar and butter. Beat on low speed for about a minute. Add vanilla and beat until well combined.
  • Add the cooled chocolate and beat on medium until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chocolate hazelnut spread, cream, and a pinch of salt. Beat on med-high speed for another minute.

To Assemble:

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Top with a third of the frosting and spread to the edges with an offset spatula (see pictures for thickness).
  • Repeat with the remaining layers.
  • Decorate with fresh berries, edible flowers, and herbs.

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