Dark Chocolate, Passion Fruit, and Hazelnut Layer Cake

It's my birthday!!!

It is 3:30 in the morning and I am getting ready for work, which will probably be a 12 hour day because we're in Christmas production mode and that shit is crazy. If you're a long term reader of this blog, that sentence may sound awfully familiar to you because I said almost exactly the same thing when I posted this chocolate cake for my birthday last year. Except last year, it was 6:30 am instead of 3:30 am. Not much has changed.

(Photos above by Mat)

I made my own birthday cake. Is that sad? No. Because I had a deliciously wonderful cake that was exactly what I wanted. I don't really trust anyone else to make cakes for me because I don't actually like most layer cakes. They're almost always dry and too sweet and the buttercream tastes like, well, butter and not much else. That's why I make my own cake and it's like an episode of Pimp My Ride, but more like Pimp My Birthday Cake.

Yo, we heard you like chocolate and passion fruit so we put chocolate in your cake and chocolate in your buttercream and passion fruit in your curd and passion fruit in your buttercream so you can eat chocolate and passion fruit while you eat chocolate and passion fruit.

If you don't get that reference, well, you clearly don't browse the internet as much as I do. If you do, I hope you let a little burst of air out of your nose and smiled reluctantly. Because that's what I did when I wrote that. 

I hope I'm making sense to at least some of you out there. It's 3:30 am after all, give me a break.

(Photos above by Mat)

Anyways, apart from this cake, I'm not doing anything crazy for my birthday, just like last year. I actually requested a chill day with my boyfriend for tomorrow (my weekend), completely with breakfast in bed, watching movies, maybe a nap, and indian takeout for dinner. I'll probably spend the whole day in my pyjamas. And that is exactly what I want to do on my birthday. 

I mean, I kind of want to dress up and have a nice meal at a nice restaurant. But then there's getting ready and putting on makeup and bussing downtown and the rain and the loud drunk young people in the streets and then bussing home when you're all full and sleepy and then taking off the makeup. Such a hassle.

I'm turning 23, not 83, but I don't blame you for thinking it's 83.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go to work for 12 hours and then come home and sleep. I'm a wild party animal, I know.

Dark Chocolate, Passion Fruit, and Hazelnut Layer Cake

Devils Food Cake

202 g all-purpose flour
62 g unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
5 g baking soda
1 g baking powder
2 g kosher salt
112 g eggs
252 g granulated sugar
4 g vanilla paste
172 g mayonnaise
210 g water, at room temperature

Passion Fruit Curd
Recipe from The Modern Cafe

79 g passion fruit purée
8 g lemon juice
100 g granulated sugar
105 g egg yolks
132 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Praline Paste

190 g hazelnuts
70 g granulated sugar
22 g water

Hazelnut French Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery

38 g granulated sugar
38 g granulated sugar
63 g egg yolks
75 g whole milk
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
20 g praline paste

Chocolate Passion Fruit Buttercream

57 g egg whites
86 g granulated sugar
170 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
75 g dark chocolate, melted
6 g passion fruit powder

Chocolate Ganache

100 g dark chocolate, chopped finely
50 g heavy cream
10 g light corn syrup

For the cake, preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray two 6 inch cake rings with non stick spray and place on a silpat lined baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine.

Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute to combine. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then whip on medium-high speed for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.

Add the mayonnaise and whip to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the dry ingredients and water in 2 additions each.

Portion the batter evenly between the two rings. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Remove from the rings and place in the fridge to make splitting the cakes easier.

For the passion fruit curd, combine the passion fruit purée and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl. Pour about one-third of the hot purée into the yolks, whisking constantly. Add the remaining hot purée. Place the mixture in a bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Cook the curd, whisking constantly, until thickened and the temperature is about 82 C. 

Remove from the hot water bath and whisk for a minute to cool it down. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer. 

Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Let the curd cool to room temperature.

The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Now, start on the nuts for the praline paste. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the hazelnut on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The hazelnuts need to be warm and de-skinned when they are added to the caramel.

While the hazelnuts are roasting, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high and cook the syrup to 116 C. Add the warm hazelnuts now and stir to coat them evenly. Continue cooking the hazelnuts and syrup until they are a deep amber colour and no sandy white bits remain. Spread onto a silpat lined baking sheet to cool completely. Roughly chop around 150 g of hazelnuts into pieces the size of sunflower seeds. Reserve in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. You can save some hazelnuts for garnishing the cake.

For the praline paste, the caramelized hazelnuts in a small food processor or vitamix. Blend until a smooth and liquidy paste forms, about 8 to 12 minutes. This will make quite a bit of extra praline paste, so use it in hot chocolate, porridge, yogurt, smoothies, ice creams, etc.!

Make the hazelnut french buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the milk and remaining 38 grams of sugar in a medium saucepan, set over 
medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove 
the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Add the praline paste and beat until combined. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

For the chocolate passion fruit buttercream, whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a double boiler. Whisking constantly, warm the egg whites until the mixture is no longer gritty. Immediately transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high for 4 minutes, until glossy and no longer warm. 

Slowly add the butter, piece by piece, until the buttercream forms. The buttercream may look like it has split initially, but if you continue to whip, it should form a smooth, fluffy buttercream. 

With the mixer on lower speed, slowly pour in the melted chocolate, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Fold in the passion fruit powder until combined.

For the ganache, place the cream in a saucepan set over medium heat. Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Once the cream has just come to a boil, pour over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until emulsified. Reserve warm until needed.

To assemble, once the cakes have cooled completely, split each one into 3 layers. (I messed up one layer and had to discard it, that's why my cake has 5 layers instead of 6!) Reserve each layer on a parchment lined baking sheet while you work on the cake.

Place one round on a cake turntable and spread an even layer of hazelnut buttercream. Top with a second cake round. Spread an even layer of passion fruit curd, then top with a third cake round. Repeat the process. Refrigerate until hardened, about 30 minutes.

Do a crumb coat of the cake with the chocolate passion fruit buttercream. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Mask the cake completely with the buttercream and refrigerate until hard, about 30 minutes.

Make sure your ganache is warm but not hot. Using a spoon or a small measuring cup, pour the ganache on the edge of the cake so it drips down the sides, then on the top. Garnish with caramelized hazelnuts if you want.

Serve at room temperature.