This is a classic chocolate and hazelnut cake from the Piedmont region of Italy, known for many lovely things including chocolates and hazelnuts. I must admit, it was a challenge for me. As duplicating something wonderful, especially a dessert, stirs up lots of memories from my childhood. Who does not remember fighting over the spoon when mom had just finished placing the cake batter into the pans?
I love it when food stirs up conversation. I especially love it when food stirs up confrontation. hehehe The kind that gets you thinking, what makes this cake so much better than the classic Gianduja Torta in Italy? I think the answer is as simple as Salt. Many classic Italian confections are missing that pinch of salt, a key ingredient in American confections. (In the States, we tend to over use it). I asked a pastry chef this question in Italy once a long time ago. He said it was not necessary and that was enough for me. At the time, I would not dare challange him, as he is well beyond my years. However, there are things in life quite necessary in cooking and that is the addition of Salt. Although slight, it does help enhance the flavor of this Torta. I hope you agree.
3/4 cups unsweetened good quality cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
2 Eggs slightly beaten
1 cup Plus 1/4 cups hazelnut flour (You can use all regular flour if Hazelnut flour is unavailable).
1/2 cup regular cake flour (optional, makes your cake more dense)
1/4 cup Frangelico hazelnut liquor
1 Pinch of salt
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1 cups hot water
Preheat your oven at 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch cake pan or you may use a spring form pan. (I like to use a cake pan since the cake should be inverted after it's cooked so the top is flat). Dust with cocoa. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and set aside.
Sift your dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix. Add your eggs, extract, and all the liquids, one at a time and mix with a hand mixer for just a few minutes until incorporated and silky. It will look a deep, dark chocolate and quite thick. That is the magic of Buttermilk.
Pour into your cake pan. Bake for 40-50 min. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes away clean. Let cool on a a wire rack for 30 minutes and invert onto a flat plate. Peel away the paper and discard. Top with fresh cherries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bet you can't have just one piece?
~Try chocolate ganache topping made with 1 cup whipping cream and 8 oz of semi-sweet chocolate. Be sure and get good quality chocolate here as it makes a huge difference. Heat your whipping cream until the rim around the edge is bubbly. Should take a few minutes on medium. Be careful not to burn. Pour your heated cream over you chocolate and let stand a good 5 minutes. Stir until silky and shiny, about 5 minutes. Pour over your cooled cake. Serve with a glass of Frangelico liquor or a big glass of milk! Buon Appetito
Another special note: This recipe was tested with all Hazelnut flour/ all regular flour, etc.. all with very good results. If you would like to make it gluten free, use all Hazelnut flour~enjoy! It's all great! The liquor intesifies the flavor of this cake.