This is my mother’s cake reborn – I think the original came from a Cordon Bleu book. It kept us going through two decades of Sunday lunches. The original sported piped cream and carefully positioned toasted nuts, but wild horses couldn’t persuade me to get a nozzle out these days. You use a savarin mold or bundt tin for it – they’re a useful thing to have and you can buy them online.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time and overnight resting
Cooking time: 45 minutes
For the cake
- 200g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 160g self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 40g blanched hazelnuts
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp milk (you may need more)
For the coffee and rum soak
2 tsp instant espresso
- 35g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp rum
To finish and decorate
- 60g blanched hazelnuts (or almonds)
- 100g caster sugar
- 350ml double cream
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Icing sugar, to taste
- Heat the oven to 170C/160C fan/gas mark 3. Butter a 23cm bundt tin or savarin mould.
- Mix the flour with the baking powder and a pinch of salt. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan, being careful not to burn them. Transfer to a dish to cool. Whizz the toasted nuts carefully in a food processor – don’t overwork them or they will become oily – and add them to the flour.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time – if you add them too fast the mixture will curdle. If the mixture begins to do that, add a tablespoon of the flour then continue adding the eggs. Next, add the vanilla extract.
- Fold the flour mixture into the beaten butter and eggs. Add enough milk to achieve a reluctant dropping consistency. Spoon into the tin and smooth the top. This will look like a small amount but it will rise. Bake for 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean; if it doesn’t, put the cake back into the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then turn on to a cooling rack.
- Add the espresso to 125ml of boiling water. Add the sugar and stir to help it dissolve, then add the rum.
- When the cake is completely cold, return it to the tin. Pierce lots of holes in the sponge using a skewer. Slowly pour the coffee into the cake. Leave overnight, covered with cling film.
- Turn the cake out on to a serving plate. If there are patches where it doesn’t seem to have enough syrup, pierce the top with a skewer and slowly pour some more of the soak over it, but don’t add so much that you have pools of coffee round the cake.
- Toast the nuts for the praline in a dry frying pan, then leave to cool. To make the praline, put the sugar in a saucepan with three tablespoons of water. Set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Don’t stir or the sugar will crystallize, but you can gently tip the pan to help it melt all over.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up high and cook until you get to the caramel stage. If you remove the pan too soon you will have sweet toffee, if you take it off too late, you’ll have burnt caramel. You want a deep tawny colour. When it gets to this, immediately add two tablespoons of water (stand well back, the mixture will spit).
- Add the nuts and pour this on to a greased baking sheet, tilting it so you have a thin layer. Leave to cool and set, then lift it off and bash it in a mortar and pestle (or put it in a plastic bag and beat it with a rolling pin). You want a mixture that is part little chips, part halved hazelnuts.
- Whip the cream and add the vanilla extract and icing sugar. It has to be thick enough to hold its shape, so you can spread it over the cake, but not overbeaten. Using a palette knife – or a butter knife if you find that easier – spread the cream all over the cake. Sprinkle the praline on the top and serve.