So, I turned 40 over the weekend.
Yes, I am now a member of the Elder-Shield Club.
It was funny because I am not really big on birthdays. Well, I guess to be more specific, I am not big on my own birthdays.
It is just a day, right?
I was assembling my birthday cake in the dining room, when I looked up and saw the scrapbook that I had done about myself when I was 33. The thing has been hanging on the wall for like forever (okay, 7 years), but you know how it is with domestic blindness setting in and after a while, you just don’t notice things anymore.
Well, I looked with renewed interest at this scrapbook, and I wondered if I were to do the same now that I am 40, what would be the 10 things I love be?
You know, what popped into my head was not so much the things I love, but who and what I love – my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, baking and cooking, coffee and chit chat with my girlfriends.. the list goes on.
Indeed, there really wasn’t anything that I HAD TO HAVE for my birthday.
But turning 40 is a big deal and my dear LAM had been running around like a headless chicken trying to get me gifts, and even went through the horrors of having to wrap the gifts and hiding the entire process from me. This was amazing because the man really hates shopping.
So guess what he got me?
Yes, I am blessed, not just because he got me the one thing I didn’t know I really wanted, but because not only does he know how much joy (the cooking and baking of) food brings me, he also knows how much I love blogging.
Yes, I am 40.
And I have never felt better!
Which then brings me back to my birthday cake.
I wanted to make myself a birthday cake. This was going to be a cake that screamed DIANA! It was going to be made with my favourite ingredient(s), and it wouldn’t matter one iota if I was the only one who liked it.
It took me a while to decide what I was going to make, the hardest part being having to choose between Nutella and Maltesers.
So after much internal debate (it was a hard one), I finally decided I to make this.
This is, every inch of it, my kind of cake.
A layer of crunchy chocolate hazelnut shortbread at the bottom, with a layer of melt-in-your-mouth Nutella mousse in the middle and a gorgeous layer of intensely dark chocolate ganache on top.
Don’t ever be intimidated by cakes that look difficult to make. As with everything, you just have to break it down to a few steps, and you’d find yourself making cakes that would wow everyone.
Here’s how to make this cake.
I started with the bottom layer. I roasted the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. Do keep an eye on them because nuts can get burnt easily. Once they were brown, I removed them from the oven. Using my food processor, I blitzed the nuts. (You can also bash them with a rolling pin – just wrap them in a tea towel first).
Into this, I added the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and butter. And blitzed again until a dough formed. You can also do this by hand with a spatula.
I pressed this dough onto the base of my lined and greased Springform pan.
It would look like there was not enough dough, but worry not. All will be okay.
Keep pressing until the dough covered the entire base of the pan, and is somewhat even.
Prick all over with a fork (I forgot to do this but it was no biggie) and then bake this for about 20 minutes, or until it is just dry to the touch.
The base was cooled before I lifted it, removed the paper at the bottom, placed it back into the Springform pan and locked everything back in place.
Then I got on with making the middle layer.
In a small saucepan, I sprinkled the gelatin over cold water. I left it for 5 minutes before whisking it over very low heat to to make sure all the gelatin had dissolved. Then I added the Nutella and gently whisked this over low heat until the mixture became smooth.
I transferred this, as well as added the Mascarpone into a large bowl and whisked until they were well-combined.
In another bowl, I added cream, cocoa powder and sugar, and whisked until soft peaks formed.
I added 1/3 of this cream into the Nutella/Mascarpone mixture and beat it in. There is no need to be gentle here as all we are doing is to create a stable base for the rest of the whipped cream to be folded into.
Then I folded the remaining cream gently into the mixture.
This was poured onto the base.
And using an offset spatula, I smoothed the top.
Then I covered this with cling film, pressing down gently onto the mousse to prevent a skin from forming.
This was placed in the fridge for at least 3 hours to chill. (I chilled mine over night).
For the final layer, I added the cream into a saucepan, and brought it to a simmer. Once bubbles started to form at the sides, I removed the cream from the heat. (Never let the cream boil!)
I added the chocolate and stirred until all the chocolate had melted. Then I left it to cool, stirring it every 5 or so minutes. The ganache would thicken as it cools. For step-by-step pictures for making ganache, see here.
I ran a warm knife around the edges of the Springform pan and removed the side.
I transferred the cake onto a serving dish, then slowly, I poured the ganache on the cake and used an offset spatula to spread the ganache to the edges. The idea is for some of the ganache to drip down the sides.
And there you have it, my gorgeous birthday cake.
I love this cake.
The top is light and smooth and contrasts nicely with the crunchy base.
It is chocolatey.
And tastes of Nutella.
Happy birthday to me.
- 2 tablespoons (18-20g) hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off
- 3 tablespoons (37.8g) sugar
- 1/2 cup (62.5g) plain flour, sifted
- 1/2 stick (56.7g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons (15g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted - I used Valrhona
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon (3.08g) unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
- 3 tablespoons (44ml) cold water
- 1/2 cup (141g) chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella
- 1/2 cup (113g) Mascarpone
- 1 1/2 cups (360ml) chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (15g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons (37.8g) sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75ml) heavy cream
- 3 1/2 oz (100g) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped - I used Valrhona 70%
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (176.6°C) . Invert bottom of a 9-inch Springform pan (to make it easier to slide shortbread base off bottom), then lock on side of pan and line bottom with a round of parchment paper.
- Pulse hazelnuts with sugar in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped. Add flour, butter, cocoa, and salt and pulse just until a dough forms.
- Press dough evenly onto bottom of springform pan with your fingers. Prick all over with a fork, then bake until just dry to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer base in pan to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove side of pan and carefully slide out parchment from under shortbread, then reattach side of pan around shortbread base.
- Sprinkle gelatin over water in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Heat gelatin mixture over low heat, stirring, just until gelatin is melted, about 2 minutes. Whisk in chocolate hazelnut spread until combined and remove from heat.
- Whisk together mascarpone and chocolate hazelnut mixture in a large bowl. Beat together cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed until just combined, then increase speed to high and beat until cream just holds soft peaks. Whisk one third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream until well combined. Spoon filling onto shortbread base in pan, gently smoothing top, then chill, covered, at least 3 hours.
- Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan and remove from heat. Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until completely melted and smooth. Transfer ganache to a small bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but still pourable, about 20 minutes.
- Run a warm thin knife around inside of springform pan, then remove side. Slide cake off bottom of pan and transfer to a serving plate. Pour ganache onto top of cake and spread, allowing excess ganache to drip down sides.