Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake
This is a personal opinion, but as a baker and blogger, there is nothing worse than a failed recipe. I know every failure is a lesson and blah, blah, blah– but I learned nothing from this failure because I repeated the same mistake two more times. Oh wait, I did learn that I shouldn’t allow myself to eat my feelings…
I wasn’t even going to post this recipe because it caused me so much grief. Every time I attempted to make this cake or the meringue something went wrong. By the third time around, I was literally eating my feelings… I was so upset that I took out a pint of ice cream, scooped it on top of my failed cake, and ate it. ‘Cause when you have a whole lot of ice cream over something, even a sub-par cake, it still tastes pretty good… Not as good as it is supposed to taste (which made me even more upset), but enough to eat it while standing over the sink and trying to force myself to stop eating it by running water over it… Now I have a tummy full of cake and not even a recipe to show for it.
Flash forward to the following day, when I FINALLY got it right. This isn’t a difficult recipe, I have made the different components of this recipe multiple times, but for some reason my skills were off or the oven wasn’t working correctly… Must have been the oven. But I felt COMPELLED to complete this cake because I knew its potential.
Every morning on my way to and from the Mercato Centrale I pass by the cutest little bakery called, Il Vecchio Forno, and every morning I make a mental note that I MUST stop in and try a pastry or two on a special occasion… Especially before the owner starts to think I’m a creep for walking into her bakery every other day and admiring all the delicious baked goods without ever buying anything.
It wasn’t a special occasion, just a random Thursday morning with Tony’s mom that we finally decided to indulge– much to the astonishment of the owner, as she repeatedly asked us “É questó un regalo?”… No, it’s not a gift… And we continued to order more brioches, biscotti, breads, and cookies. Our excitement must have been infectious because she gave us a free taste tester of some of her most popular treats, which were all delightful.
We climbed the 83 steps to our apartment and we justified our excessive purchases while doing so. The first thing we tried was the brioche. I told myself I was only going to eat half of the brioche that day, but Judith quickly exclaimed that we shouldn’t waste half of a freshly baked brioche because it would most definitely not taste as good the next day and one bite into it I knew I didn’t stand a chance.
The Nutella Brioche was everything you could want in a perfect brioche; light, buttery, flaky, and delicious. But the real stand-out of the loot was the Scopeti. They were displayed right in the middle of all the different varieties of cantucci, including chocolate and orange, fig and walnut, and almond. I was too excited about everything else I was ordering that I didn’t realize they weren’t biscotti, but a delicious and light chocolate and hazelnut meringue cookie-bar.
That night we presented all of our goodies to Tony and tried the Scopeti for the first time. It was a mistake. As soon as we bit into one, we ate every last piece. They were chewy, light, nutty, and chocolatey– the perfect treat to end your night. The next day I knew I needed more of these Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Bars in my life, but out of self-respect, I restrained myself from going back the following morning. So what’s a girl to do? Why, bake my own, of course!
I had a general idea of how to recreate these delicious treats, but for recipe comparison purposes I did a quick search on the Internet and found THIS… Which, I fell in love with immediately… I used my staple Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe for the cake part and a variation of a Washington Post recipe for “‘Ugly But Good’ Chunky Chocolate-Hazelnut Meringues.” The result was a moist, dense, and fudgey cake with a crisp, crunchy, and chocolate meringue topping. It was perfection and exactly what I was aiming for.
The worst part of this recipe is waiting to eat it. You will want to eat it straight out of the oven, but like many great things, you must wait. Wait until it is completely cooled and the longer you can wait, the better.. and maybe eat it with some ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. You will not be disappointed! Also, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t tell you that I ate half of the cake that night. It was worth the failed attempts.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 egg whites
- For the cake, preheat the oven to 275 degrees with the rack in the center. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
- Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until completely melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in egg yolks.
- In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar, and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then gently fold in remaining egg whites.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and bake for 25 minutes. While the cake is baking, prepare meringue.
- To make the meringue, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Use an electric beater to beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until firm peaks form. In another bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and cinnamon in a mixing bowl until combined then add chopped hazelnuts. Use a wooden spoon to gently fold in half of the egg whites until the mixture is evenly moistened; it should be thick and hard to stir. If there’s not enough moisture to make the mixture hold together, add some of the remaining egg white, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture just holds together but is not runny.
- Using a spoon, gently spoon meringue on top of the cake as to not to deflate the meringue, and return to oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned and firm.
- Cool completely on a wire rack; remove sides of pan. Serve at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.