Bitter chocolate-hazelnut cake with candied grapefruit

Bitter chocolate-hazelnut cake with candied grapefruit

New Feast
Alan Benson

This cake evolved from one of our favourite Spanish nut cakes, and it demonstrates the natural affinity of hazelnuts with chocolate. It’s a simple and rather light sponge cake, rather than the squidgy meringue-style gianduja tortas from Italy. In essence, it is all about the nuts! Toasted hazelnuts are ground and folded into the cake batter, but we like to keep some of them a little coarser, which adds a nutty texture to the finished cake.

It’s a very versatile cake: instead of the chocolate glaze, orange icing is also delicious. Simpler still, dust it with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream. But best of all, we think, is this easy bitter chocolate glaze and a tangle of candied peel to top it off.


Quantity Ingredient
120g blanched hazelnuts
120g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra to grease
110g golden caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
60ml milk
20g best-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), very finely grated
Candied citrus peel, to garnish

Chocolate glaze

Quantity Ingredient
150g best-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 10–12 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C. Butter and flour the base and side of a 20 cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
  3. Place the flour, baking powder, salt and three-quarters of the toasted hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz for a couple of minutes, or until the hazelnuts are finely ground and you can smell their lovely nutty aroma. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Finely chop the rest of the hazelnuts by hand into coarse, but even crumbs and set aside.
  5. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed for around 4–5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture, a third at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the vanilla and orange zest then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  6. Lower the speed and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. When the batter is just combined, use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the reserved hazelnuts and the grated chocolate. Scrape into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface.
  7. Bake the cake for around 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave it to cool, still in its tin, on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of the tin and invert the cake onto a plate. Remove the baking paper and leave to cool completely.
  8. To make the glaze, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (it shouldn’t touch the water). Stir gently and when it has completely melted, remove from the heat and add the pieces of butter. Beat with a hand-blender, taking care not to incorporate any air. Pour the glaze over the cake evenly and allow to set before topping with candied grapefruit peel.
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