There’s something about the coming of Spring, the Easter season, and the flowers in the air that says one thing: chocolate. It’s definitely the chocolate time of year, and these dark, fudgy little cakes are just the ticket. They would be perfect at almost any event. They make as elegant an end to dinner, as they do a decadent addition to high tea. I particularly love these as an alternative to the more boring traditional gift of store-bought chocolates. Imagine receiving a cake box with four of these lush cakes instead of a boring foil-wrapped bunny, now that is a hostess gift! And I say four, because this recipe makes eight, meaning you get to keep some for yourself.
The cakes themselves are a slightly lighter version of a chocolate mud cake; still dark and strong, but not quite as dense as is traditional. On top of the cakes goes a gooey dollop of chocolate hazelnut frosting – and you know when anyone says chocolate hazelnut, they mean Nutella. To add some beautiful bling to these babes, a simple shard of hazelnut-studded toffee gets pronged into each, and just like that, they are ready to go. Does that sound sarcastic? I didn’t mean it to – trust me when I say that each element of these cakes couldn’t be easier to put together.
The cake mix is a melt-and-mix, one-bowl affair. The frosting is as simple as some light stirring and the toffee shard is really incredibly easy for the payoff you get at the end. I know some people are scared of caramel, but the only secret is to leave the pan completely alone so that the sugar can melt and caramelize. It’s nerve-wracking only if you poke and prod at it – just stay calm, let it do its thing, and before you know it you will have a tray of the most delicious, dark, chocolatey, and beautiful cakes you could dream of, studded with golden caramel shards. Happy chocolate season!
Chocolate Hazelnut Mud Cakes
For the cakes:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 4oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
For the frosting:
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, soft
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 4 oz milk chocolate (30% cocoa solids), melted
- 2 tbsp Nutella
- Pinch of salt
- For the toffee shards:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts (feel free to leave these out, the toffee still looks great)
Preheat the oven to 325F and grease 8 ½ cup capacity metal dariole moulds (or use a muffin tin). Place the butter, chocolate, sugar, water and coffee into a heavy based saucepan and melt over a low heat, until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
When the mixture is warm, but not hot, whisk in the egg and vanilla, then sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa, and whisk into the mix. Divide the mixture evenly among the moulds, filling them 2/3 full. Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until springing back when pressed. Leave to cool in the moulds for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting:
To make the frosting, beat the butter until pale and light, then sift over the powdered sugar and beat until combined. Slowly mix in the melted, cooled chocolate, followed by the Nutella and salt. If the mixture seems too soft, place it in the fridge for a while, to firm up.
For the toffee:
To make the toffee shard, place a piece of baking paper onto a cool baking sheet and set aside. Place 2 tbsp water into the bottom of a heavy-based saucepan and add the sugar, pouring it into the middle of the pan. Place over medium heat, and let it melt, gently swirling the pan, only if the sugar is not melting evenly. Once the sugar is melted, leave it alone to boil and caramelize. This process takes about 5-7 minutes.
Keep an eye on the pan, but don’t stir it. When the sugar is a dark amber color, add in the hazelnuts, and swirl the pan to coat them in the sugar, then pour the mixture out onto the lined baking sheet, letting it spread into a thin layer. Be very careful, and don’t touch the sugar or the pan, because they will be very hot. Leave the toffee to cool and set completely, about 30 minutes.
To assemble the chocolate hazelnut mud cakes, place a big dollop of icing onto the top of each cake. Break the toffee into small shards and jam a piece into the top of each cake. Serve.