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Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Cake {Gluten-Free!}

Chocolate hazelnut meringue cake

An over-the-top, decadent chocolate cake that brings together a rich, chocolate base with crackly, chewy meringue, and whipped cream to top it off. Gluten-free.
*A note on the preparation: I hate washing more dishes than necessary, so I made the cake in same food processor I used to pulverize the hazelnuts. If you don't have a food processor, though, this recipe can be made by buying pre-ground hazelnuts (sometimes called hazel flour), and proceeding with a bowl and electric mixer of your choice. **I have not tried this, but suspect that if you made a three-quarters version of this recipe, it should fit nicely in a single 9-or 10-inch springform pan, which is likely more easily found in your homes than really tall 6-inch pans, so if you give that a shot, let me know!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr

Ingredients
  

For the cake

  • 150g (1 heaping cup) hazelnuts, toasted
  • 150g (1 heaping cup) 70% roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 150g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs + 3 eggs separated (whites reserved in a clean bowl for meringue below)
  • 150g (1/2 cup + 2Tbs) softened unsalted butter
  • 12g (2 Tbs) dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the meringue

  • 3 large egg whites (90g)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

For the whipped cream + garnishes

  • 1 cup 35% whipping cream, cold
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • optional: chocolate shavings or sprinkles

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350F, and generously grease two (3-inches tall) 6-inch round cake pans. Line the cake pans with three (2-inch wide) strips of parchment paper going all the way up the sides of the pan, to make a sort of asterisk shape. This will help you remove the cake when it's done baking.

For the cake:

  • In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until they're finely ground, but make sure to stop before they turn into hazelnut butter! Remove and set aside in a bowl.
  • In another small bowl, melt the chocolate in 30-second increments in the microwave (or, if you prefer, over a bain marie). Once melted, set aside to cool for a minute or two.
  • Meanwhile, throw your sugar and butter back in the food processor (do not bother washing it first). Pulse until they become light and fluffy. Add your whole eggs one by one, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next. Repeat with the three egg yolks. Add your cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, and ground hazelnuts in, and pulse a couple times. Add in your melted chocolate and pulse a few times, then give it a final stir with a spoon to make sure everything is incorporated.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and try to level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

For the meringue:

  • Working quickly, in a clean metal bowl, add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat on medium speed until they reach the soft peak stage, then add in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, incorporating each one fully before adding the next. Continuing at medium speed, beat the whites until they become stiff and glossy, and when you turn off the mixer, the mixture holds a stiff peak. Do not overbeat, or they will become weepy. Gently spoon the meringue evenly between the two baking pans, over the cake batter.
  • Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes, until the meringue is golden-brown and dry. Cake testers like toothpicks are useless here, as the cake batter will seemingly always come out 'wet'; trust that it's done (unless your oven runs cool, in which case, you can bake it 10 minutes longer). Turn off the heat and prop the oven open with a wooden spoon; allow to cool fully in the oven.

For the whipped cream:

  • Beat cream in a bowl until you achieve stiff peaks.

Assembly:

  • Carefully remove the cakes from the pans by scoring around the edges with a knife and then lifting them out with their parchment slings. Set one cake on your serving dish, and cover with half the whipped cream and a scattering of hazelnuts. Set the second cake on top, and cover with remaining whipped cream. Dust with the cocoa powder and sprinkle with the rest of the hazelnuts and some chocolate shavings, if desired. Serve immediately.
  • This cake tastes best the day it's made, but if you'd like to prepare it in advance, keep the cakes covered, in their tins, at room temperature, and assemble with the whipped cream just before serving.