One of the great things about having an omnivorous partner is that my sugar cravings never go unnoticed. The times he comes up with an idea for a new dessert are as many as the times I bake of my own initiative. Better still, food waste is the least of our problems: cake always gets eaten up to the tiniest crumb, and we’ll take any occasion, real or made up, as a chance to make some.
We have homemade cakes for our birthdays. My last one was, possibly, my biggest baking fail ever (I felt too ashamed to even blog about it. I’ll take its secret to my grave). Turning of age without a cake felt weird, as if something important was missing. And then, one week later, I made blueberry cheesecake bars, and pretended I was still celebrating. I’ll never run out of excuses to party, will I.
The week I got my first job, I made my favourite homemade cake, and took a slice to the office for breakfast. Starting my first day with a treat felt exciting; a new beginning blessed with good omens. Fast-forward to now, two and a half years later; I’m looking for a new job, and there will be cake when I find it.
We celebrate the anniversary of our move to London with cake, or any other sweet treat that takes our fancy. In 2012, we made a custard cream pie with a neat pastry “2” on top; last year, we made the creamiest, most indulgent tiramisu. Whatever we make this year will sport a glorious number four. Looking back, it’s hard to believe we made it this far without giving in to London’s hectic pace; and yet, here we are, still loving the big city life.
We certainly don’t lack the will to be merry; however, we stubbornly resist the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day. We’re both indifferent to the hype, not bothered enough to care. Friends and colleagues never fail to express their surprise. “What, he doesn’t take you out for dinner?”; “What, you don’t even buy him chocolates?”. No, and no. It’s a day like any other. I haven’t cooked anything special yesterday, or dressed up for date night, or (god forbid!) held any hopes of being proposed to with pomp and circumstance. That’s what romantic comedies are for, and I don’t even like the genre.
If I was a V-Day enthusiast, though, I would treat my partner to Almond and Hazelnut Cream Cake. You can hardly go wrong with a light almond sponge, and a soft, delicate chocolate and hazelnut filling that feels sweet like a loved one’s hug. But then, any other day of the year is just as good for this cake: it never gets old, or inappropriate. If you are the lovey-dovey type, go ahead and make it this weekend. If you’re not, make it next week, next month, or whenever you fancy. You need no clichéd recurrence to treat that special person in your life (or yourself, for that matter!).
(makes 8 – 10 slices)
- 4 eggs
- 115g caster sugar
- 50g ground almonds
- 50g ground hazelnuts
- 50g plain flour
- 50g flaked almonds
- 100g plain chocolate (I used 75% dark chocolate)
- 280ml double cream, whipped
- 2 – 3 tbsp hazelnut paste (I used WhyNut Roasted Hazelnut Paste)
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl, until you obtain a smooth, foamy mixture.
- Fold in the ground almonds and hazelnuts, then sift in the flour. Mix carefully with a metal spoon.
- Grease a round springform cake tin, and pour in the mixture. Scatter the flaked almonds on top to decorate.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden in colour and springy to the touch.
- Remove from the oven, and leave aside to cool down.
- Prepare the filling: start by melting the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, over simmering water. Let it cool down slightly, then mix it with the whipped cream and hazelnut paste.
- Cut the cake in two halves, lengthways. Spread the filling over one half, then place the almond-topped half on top of it.
- Store in the fridge, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving (or overnight for best results).
- Put any leftovers back in the fridge, where they will keep very well for 3 – 4 days.