Man. It took me forever and a day to decide what kind of cake to make Thom for his birthday. I wanted something different from years past and I was thisclose to settling on a bantella cake. Banana. Nutella. BANTELLA. Delicious, right? But then I decided I should probably let Thom choose the flavor of his cake so I sat silently while he rattled off some options.
Apple and pear. For a birthday cake? Boring. Peanut butter and strawberry. HA! No way, José. Chocolate and lime. That sounds disgusting. Something with raspberries? Did that last year, ya goon. Then finally vanilla-something with hazelnut came out of his mouth and I thought to myself, NOW WE’RE TALKING, THOM. So I got to work planning his cake and just when I was about to make him a vanilla cake in bundt form (with boozy hazelnut glaze), I was reminded that YOU CAN’T MAKE HIM A BUNDT CAKE FOR HIS BIRTHDAY, YOU NINNY! So I settled on a simple hazelnut layer cake with vanilla bean frosting. I had dreams of Ferrero Rocher innards but when I ran that idea by Thom, he made it clear that he wanted vanilla and hazelnut. Not chocolate and vanilla and hazelnut. Noted.
So I made a cake. Had a few too many cake fails (wamp wamp) but eventually I nailed the recipe. And for his birthday I surprised him with a new TV (the last time we bought a TV was in 2009 and HOLY HECK, you guys, they’re hella fancy now) (and unbelievably affordable) because I may have sold our really nice one for a measly $100 back before the kitchen renovation started. In my defense, a friend had a smaller TV she wanted to get rid of and, really, all I was thinking was smaller = better because our old TV was a giant eyesore. For those of you who know nothing about televisions (ahem, me, earlier this year), I essentially downgraded our Vitamix Pro Series 300 to an Oster Simple Blend 100 and, well, Thom was not happy. So in a desperate attempt to get out of the doghouse, I got him a new TV. But unfortunately my grand idea didn’t go according to plan because the night of his birthday – when I got about 20 of his favorite people together for a surprise celebration downtown – he proceeded to tell everyone the story of how I sold our TV on a whim. And how for eight months straight he was forced to use a television that didn’t have the internet or a single HDMI outlet (don’t even get him started on the picture quality). Moral of the story: don’t sell electronic devices that you know nothing about.
The morning after his birthday we packed up the Prius for its first trip (!) to the mountains. I had plans of taking the train to Glenwood Springs or driving up to Jackson, WY, but – at the last minute – decided Salida would be more conducive to lazy weekending. We slept in (me until 7AM, him until 10AM), ate all the things (except for the avocado oil kettle chips in the snack bin at the lodge) (I did a really good job of resisting those), walked all over the tiny town, and were tucked into bed by 8PM both nights. It was glorious. And easily one of the best weekends we’ve had in a long time.
We got back on Sunday and I jumped straight into a bunch of winter recipe development (I figured I should probably get a head start if Alchemy‘s going to be launching soon), which resulted in a decadent white chocolate (peppermint) truffle recipe that’s not completely terrible for you. So get your cacao butter ready, babes, ’cause the truffles are coming next week. Also – speaking of recipes and the new year – the principle complaint I get about OLC (well, aside from the fact that there are way too many swears on this site), is that there aren’t enough cake recipes in this space. So I’m curious: Do you guys want more cake? More savory eats? Less chocolate? Less peanut butter, too? More healthy-ish desserts? Tell me. Because in 2017 it’s all about you.
Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, substitute 2 tablespoons of potato starch in place of 2 tablespoons of flour, for every cup of flour. You can use any hazelnut creamer your little hearts desire, but I tried both soy creamer and the almondmilk creamer from Califia and preferred the flavor of Califia (and I’m not just saying that because they’re a sponsor of OLC), hands down. If you don’t have 6″ cake pans, this recipe can make two 8-9″ round cake layers. I’ve provided two different frosting options – the one I went with was my go-to coconut oil frosting but I’ve provided a shortening version, as well. For chocolate frosting, add 3/4 cup of cacao powder and 1-2 tablespoons of additional almondmilk. For the truffles, replace the coconut oil with hazelnut liqueur (use 1 full tablespoon for the half batch). I also stuffed the truffles with a hazelnut and rolled them in finely chopped hazelnuts.
More of Thom’s birthday goodness: vanilla bean + black raspberry-lucuma cake with salted pretzel crumbs, almond cake with chocolate-coconut frosting, and double chocolate cake with coconut-pecan filling.
HAZELNUT CRUNCH CAKE
3 cups (395g) unbleached cake flour
2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5g) fine sea salt
3/4 cup (150g) roasted hazelnut oil
1 1/2 cups (305g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25g) hazelnut liqueur
2 cups (420g) hazelnut creamer
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped (optional)
Vanilla bean frosting (option 1)
3 cups (330g) powdered cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
3/4 cup (150g) refined coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
Vanilla bean frosting (option 2)
1 cup (180g) non-hydrogenated shortening
1-2 tablespoons (14-28g) unsweetened almondmilk
3 cups (330g) powdered can sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
You’ll also need
1/2 batch salted chocolate truffles (see notes above)
Toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line the bottom of three round 6″ cake pans with parchment paper then spray with oil and coat with sifted flour; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Alternate between adding the creamer and the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mixing after each addition; add one third of the creamer followed by half of the flour and repeat the process ending with the creamer. Whisk batter just until combined (don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten and your cake will be rubbery) then fold in the toasted hazelnuts (if using). Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, level with the back of a spoon, then tap the pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake at 350˚F for 36-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake layers are cooling, prepare the vanilla bean frosting. I prefer the coconut oil variety but it does dry out pretty fast and is somewhat unstable (it’ll melt off your cake if it gets above 80˚F in your house). If you’d rather have something more stable that will stay soft for a while, go for the shortening variety.
To make the coconut oil frosting (option 1), sift the powdered sugar and vanilla bean powder into a large bowl, then slowly whisk in the coconut oil until smooth.
To make the shortening frosting (option 2), add the shortening and almondmilk to a large mixing bowl and, using a hand mixer on high speed, beat just until combined. Sift the powdered sugar and vanilla bean powder over top then beat until smooth and creamy.
To assemble the cake, level the layers then place one layer on a cake stand/plate/etc. and smear with (or pipe on) a generous portion of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and frosting. Using an offset spatula, smooth the frosting around the cake then finish with chopped hazelnuts and truffles. Serve with remaining truffles.
Cake will keep in an airtight container for up to three days (I put mine in a big pot with a silicone lid on top).
Yield: 8 slices (or 16 thin slices)
Just under three hours from Denver, Salida is the perfect place for a lazy weekend getaway. We went with absolutely nothing on our agenda and wound up taking it easy all weekend long. The town is small (<6k people-small) but it boasts great shopping, delicious food, and surprisingly drinkable coffee (which can be hard to come by in those tiny mountain towns).
The Fritz – Not much for the non-meat and dairy eating folks but I made do with some brussels and the Asian salad.
Amicas – Delicious pizas, salads, etc. Can easily be made vegan.
Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop – REAL GOOD BREAD.
Seasons Café – Great little breakfast spot. I had steel-cut oats with almond milk.
Patio Pancake Place – Absolutely nothing for vegans (not even non-dairy milk) but Thom preferred his pancake breakfast at PPP to the one at Seasons.
Little Red Hen Bakery – Delicious bread but my picky ass husband wasn’t a fan of the baked goods. Wonder why. ;)
Little Cambodia – Get the bun but skip the sweet sauce and sub peanut sauce. It’s basically a deconstructed spring roll bowl. Thom got the veggie pho and enjoyed it.
Brown Dog Coffee Company – Delicious soy latte. Though service was.. weird.
Sacred Ground Coffee – My latte was a little off but the place has great reviews so I’m just going to chalk that up to the fact that the place was slammed.
Tribal Rugs – Really gorgeous rugs. A bit expensive, but that’s to be expected.
Ruby Blues – Funky little vintage shop.
Fay and Maye – Housewares! And my favor American Heirloom cake stands.
Howl Mercantile – Gorgeous jewelry, Dram bitters, and ceramics. Oh, and Corvus on draft.
Sunshine Market – Part apothecary, part health food shop. Great place to grab snacks for the weekend.