The indelible combination of chocolate and hazelnuts was made world-famous by the Nutella brand, but it has been a classic in Italian baking since the era of Napolean. Gianduja is a chocolate hazelnut spread from the Piedmont region. The confection takes its name from the marionette that represents Turin in the Commedia dell’Arte, a peasant with penchant for wine, women and gastronomy. Gianduja would definitely enjoy the cake named after him.
This recipe for torta Gianduja comes from America’s Test Kitchen. It has a dense chocolate center, a craggy top, and a coarse crumb from the ground hazelnuts. ATK added a few tablespoons of flour to what would otherwise be a flourless chocolate cake, for lift and texture. I added vanilla and orange zest. This recipe makes a rich, luscious cake that’s perfect for the winter holidays.
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 large eggs, separated, plus 1 large yolk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
zest of 1 orange (optional)
Pinch of cream of tartar
8 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, line with parchment paper and grease pan sides only.
- Microwave chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes; let cool completely. Pulse hazelnuts, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, flour, and salt in food processor until hazelnuts are finely ground, about 10 pulses. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Return now-empty bowl to mixer. Fit stand mixer with paddle; beat butter and remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar in now-empty mixer bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add vanilla and orange zest. Reduce speed to low, add cooled chocolate, and mix until just combined. Add hazelnut mixture and mix until just combined, scraping down bowl as needed.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of whites into batter. Gently fold remaining whites into batter until no white streaks remain. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Gently tap the pan on counter to release air bubbles. Bake until toothpick inserted halfway between center and outer rim of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (center of cake will be moist.)
- Let cool cake completely in pan on wire rack, about 3 hours. (Cooled cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days; let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.) Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake, then remove sides of pan. Invert cake onto sheet of parchment paper. Peel off and discard parchment baked onto cake. Turn right side up onto platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with whipped cream or mascarpone.
This super-rich and dense cake is elemental in its simplicity. The chocolate hazelnut combination made popular by Nutella.