Okay, so I know it’s January and this whole New Year thing literally that just happened, and we’ve made resolutions and promises to ourselves to eat healthier and make better choices from now on. I’m all for it…just not at this very moment, clearly. While everyone else is eating salads and vegetables and saying no to desserts, I’m over here tempting you all with this behemoth of a cake. What’s wrong with me?! I obviously didn’t get the memo, but that’s okay because I didn’t really want that memo to begin with. All I can say is that I’m very sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault. This cake happens to be a special cake. A birthday cake, to be exact, and I’m posting it so that we can all celebrate together, because a cake like this deserves to be admired and shared. A cake like this is worthy of breaking a few New Year’s resolutions here and there. I won’t judge, and I’m definitely not complaining.
Next week is Julian’s birthday (hooray)! So in honor of this awesome occasion, I’ve decided to bake him a cake made up of his favorite flavors; chocolate, butterscotch and hazelnuts. Just in case you were wondering, I’m posting the recipe a week early because I’m taking him on a special top secret (shhh) trip for a week to celebrate his day of birth. The day he came into this world. He doesn’t know where we’re going, exactly, which is very exciting and fun for me because I get to surprise him with our actual destination on the day we leave and yell out “SURPRISE!!” Really loudly. Like I said, fun. The bajillion questions he asks me on a daily basis though since he found out about this trip—Where are we going? I just want to know! Is it far? Just give me a clue! Where are we going? Is it Hawaii?—not so much. All I know is that I couldn’t sit back and let the day go by without making him something special, aka something drenched in chocolate. So here we are with a giant cake in our faces, staring us right in the eyes, on a month when we vowed to eat nothing but vegetables. Damn you cake, damn you.
Since we’ll be away next week on his actual birthday (January 13th), I thought it would be a great idea to make him his cake in advance, and post it early so that we can all still have something to enjoy in his honor. Lucky for Julian that means he gets two celebrations, not to mention this delicious cake. So give me a hand and help me wish this guy a Happy Birthday. It’s because of him that this chocolate, butterscotch, Nutella, hazelnut and dark chocolate ganache cake exists in our lives. We owe him a lot.
This cake might seem a little daunting at first, and I’m not going to lie to you, it is in fact a little daunting to tackle, but I can guarantee you that it’s not impossible. It’s actually a lot of fun to make and put together!
We’re going to start by making the chocolate cake batter and baking the layers off. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe, which I’ve featured on the blog before in this S’MORES Cupcake post. It’s super easy to make, it’s almost embarrassing.
In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and coffee liqueur.
Whisk until somewhat smooth. It doesn’t have to be completely lump free, because then you’ll run the risk of overmixing it and that’ll leave you with a dry cake. You don’t want a dry cake, trust me. So just mix until the dry ingredients are well combined with the wet. It’ll be really thick at this point.
The last ingredient we’re going to add is scorching hot coffee (or hot water).
**Tip: If you’re a coffee drinker and have hot coffee leftover from the morning, then you can definitely just use that. Or if you’re like me and don’t drink coffee, then you can mix instant espresso powder with one cup of hot water!**
Slowly stream in the hot coffee (or water) into the batter while mixing. Make sure to use a rubber spatula to get the bottom and the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate the liquid. The batter will be very runny at this point, that’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way!
Pour the batter into two 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool COMPLETELY before frosting.
**Tip: You can definitely save some time by making and baking the cake layer a couple days in advance. At the most, two days. It’ll ensure that they’re completely cool and also, give you some extra time on the day of!**
In the meantime, let’s make the butterscotch sauce. It gets drenched onto the cake! Julian happens to LOVE butterscotch, so that’s why it has found it’s way into his birthday cake.
In a medium pot, combine the brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream. Whisk until completely smooth. Bring to a boiling simmer without stirring. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes, untouched. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.
Transfer the butterscotch sauce to a bowl and allow to cool down COMPLETELY before using!
**Tip: This sauce could also be made up to a week advance. Store in the fridge and rewarm to loosen. It has to cool down, though, before you can use it on the cake. BUT at least it’ll be done ahead of time, right?!**
Once the cakes and the butterscotch sauce have cooled down completely, and you’re ready to go ahead and frost the cake. Let’s make the frosting!
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and chocolate hazelnut spread which we all know by the name of Nutella.
**Note: No, Nutella did not endorse or sponsor this post but let’s be frank, we all just refer to the product by its brand name and never by CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD! What are we, animals?**
Beat on medium until smooth and somewhat fluffy. Then slowly stream in the heavy cream and continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Set the frosting off to the side (trying against hope to not eat the entire bowl before it actually makes it onto the cake) and then make the chocolate ganache for the top of the cake!
We’re almost there, almost ready to frost this thing. I promise.
Heat the heavy cream (last cream of the recipe, sheesh) until it just comes to a simmer. Place the chocolate and coffee liqueur in a small bowl and then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit, untouched, for about 5 minutes. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the ganache has turned glossy. Set aside and allow to cool down somewhat.
**Note: Your ganache might be really runny and thin, but as it cools, it’ll began to thicken!**
Okay, now we are ready to assemble and decorate this cake. Even out the cooled cake layers by cutting off the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife.
**Tip: Using a serrated knife for this task will ensure that you make a clean and even cut through the cake layers!**
Just cut off the very tops to even out the layers as best you can. Place one of the layers, cut side up, onto a cake platter, plate or stand. Spread a layer of frosting on top and then drizzle with the cooled butterscotch sauce. How much, depends on you!
Place the second layer of cake, cut side down on top of the frosting and butterscotch layer.
Glob some frosting on top of the cake and using a straight edge spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake as best you can. You’re not winning any awards for perfectly frosting your cake. There’s no competition so just have fun with it. In a bit you’ll see how mine is lopsided.
Fill a piping bag (attached with a star tip) with frosting and pipe out a decorative bottom edge of the cake.
**Note: If you don’t have a fancy piping bag with decorating tips, you can just skip this step. No biggie.**
To get the lines/ridges on the sides of the cake, I used one of those decorating comb tool things…..like this one here on amazon.
Place the cake in the freezer or fridge for about half an hour. This is crucial because it’ll allow the cake and frosting to set and prevent the layers from slipping. Also, a cold chilled cake will be better for when we add the chocolate ganache on top.
Pour a bit of the ganache into a piping bag or sandwich bag with a tiny bit of the tip cut off. Then drizzle the ganache in a zigzag motion on the edge at the top. Does that make sense?! I think I just confused us all, but that’s okay because here’s a picture:
Pour more of the ganache in the center and then using a straight edge spatula, spread the ganache onto an even layer so that the entire top of the cake is covered.
While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the top completely with the roasted chopped hazelnuts.
Drizzle with more butterscotch sauce to finish the cake!
Like I mentioned earlier, if you look really closely you can see how lopsided it is on the right side. You don’t even have to look closely, you can tell automatically, and the point I’m making is that the cake doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay if it looks lopsided because that makes it look homemade and rustic.
Slap some candles on this baby and light them up. It’s the ultimate birthday cake, especially for those who have a love affair with chocolate, butterscotch, Nutella, and hazelnuts like Julian does.
If you can’t find Nutella at the grocery store, or just don’t like it and would like something less sweet, you can totally swap it out for smooth peanut butter. That’ll go really well with the chocolate and butterscotch as well. You can swap out the hazelnuts for chopped honey roasted peanuts as well to go with the peanut butter! That sounds really good to me, but it’s not my birthday so peanut butter didn’t make an appearance here.
The best thing about this cake is that, while yes there are a lot of steps and recipes to it, you can actually make all the components ahead of time. Bake the cake layers, make the butterscotch and chocolate ganache a day or two in advance and then just whip up the frosting on the day you plan on frosting the cake. You could also decorate the cake entirely the day before and it’ll still be good the next day.
Wrap any leftovers well with plastic wrap and store the cake in the fridge for up to three days. Anything longer than that, and the cake won’t be as moist and fresh, but I highly doubt that this cake could last three days in someone’s house.
So right after this post, and right after celebrating Julian’s birthday, we can all go back to our New Year’s diets and resolutions. Go head and pick up those lettuce greens and veggies and eat healthier (just after finishing off that last slice, though).
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon coffee liqueur
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- Nutella frosting (recipe follows)
- butterscotch sauce (recipe follows)
- dark chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
- 1½ cups roasted hazelnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add in the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and coffee liqueur. Stir until smooth. In a glass measuring cup stir together the hot water and the instant espresso powder. Slowly stream into the cake batter and stir until completely incorporated. Batter will be thin.
- Divide the batter into the prepared pans and rap on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until baked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool down completely.
- Once cooled, cut off the tops of the cakes to even them out. Place one layer on a cake plate, platter or stand. Frost with a layer of Nutella frosting and then drizzle with butterscotch sauce. Place the second layer of cake on top and frost the top and sides until smooth. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Drizzle the top edge of the cake with chocolate ganache, allowing it to drip down the sides. Pour the chocolate ganache on top and spread with an offset spatula until the top is completely covered. Sprinkle the top with the chopped hazelnuts. Enjoy!
- yield: 1 2-layer chocolate cake
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup Nutella
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- splash vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- In a large bowl, cream together the powdered sugar, Nutella, butter, vanilla and salt on medium-low for about 3 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and beat until light and smooth.
- yield: about 2 cups
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream, plus 6 tablespoons
- splash of vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Place the butter, brown sugar, and ¼ cup heavy cream in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Bring to a rapid simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, without stirring.
- Remove from heat and stir in the remaining cream, salt and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool down. Can be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Reheat sauce in a saucepot over low heat. Enjoy!
- yield: about 1 cup
- 9 ounces dark chocolate chips
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon coffee liqueur
- Heat the heavy cream until it just begins to simmer. Place the chocolate and coffee liqueur in a small bowl and pour in the heated cream. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes untouched. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and has become glossy. Allow to cool slightly before using on cake.
- Can be stored in the fridge, well wrapped, for about 1 week. Rewarm to melt before using. Enjoy!
- yield: about 1½ cups ganache