Having a dinner party and looking for ideas? Get a copy of Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques and you’ll find a book full of menus that will wow your guests. From main courses to vegetables to desserts, I’ve yet to be disappointed. As you may have sensed I have a thing for hazelnuts and after a year or two of trying to replicate a cake I ate in Piemonte, I finally stopped searching after I found this cake.
When I first read the recipe I was a little concerned about using “two” sticks of butter for one small cake, but thankfully I didn’t let that get in the way. After taking one bite I was smitten and didn’t care one bit about the butter! The cake is moist and bursting with hazelnut flavor. Top with whipped cream, serve your guests and hope that there’s some leftover for breakfast in the morning.
P.S. Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake using 25 pounds of brown butter,25 pounds of hazelnuts and 150 eggs!
Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast the nuts for about 10 minutes, until they smell nutty. Wrap the nuts in a dishtowel, let sit for about 10 minutes, then rub the nuts in the towel to remove the skins. Cool.
Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.
Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.
Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.
Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third of a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 45 minutes to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves: 6-8