Sometimes, it can only be ganache.

Candied hazelnuts and pink Himalayan salt add notes of grace and whimsy.
Candied hazelnuts and pink Himalayan salt add notes of grace and whimsy. Layers of chocolate hazelnut cake, layered with milk chocolate caramel ganache, chopped roasted hazelnuts, and salted caramel sauce, with a final double coat of milk chocolate caramel ganache and dark chocolate ganache, accented by candied hazelnuts.

It could only be a ganache for Lesley. Well, certainly Lesley would enjoy a wide range of frostings–as long as they’re real buttercream, but they wouldn’t really “fit” Lesley. In the world of cake matchmaking, for a cake for Lesley, it could only be ganache. There’s just something about ganache. It’s smooth and shiny–abundant with sophistication and class, but come on–it’s chocolate + cream–that’s decadence if I’ve ever seen decadence. But you can’t stop at the ganache if you’re doing a cake for Lesley because she’s just not that single dimensional. You have to add whimsy and crunch to match her quick wit, you have to add lusciousness because she’s no fool who would turn away lusciousness, and you have to make it delicious as well as pretty–she is lovely, yes, but there’s no superficial Barbie doll here. So when Lesley asked me for a cake for her sweetheart’s birthday, something with chocolate and nuts, I knew it could only be this cake. This is a cake that begins with deep rich chocolate and hazelnuts in the form of Nutella. And if you aren’t able to appreciate Nutella for the manna from heaven that it is, well, I guess while I’m sorry to see you go, you must indeed go.

Chopped hazelnuts blanket the milk chocolate caramel ganache which blankets the brandy brown sugar soaked chocolate hazelnut cake.
Chopped hazelnuts blanket the milk chocolate caramel ganache which blankets the brandy brown sugar soaked chocolate hazelnut cake.

Then you soak the cake in a brandy brown sugar soaking syrup. And I mean, come on–who argues with brandy brown sugar syrup soaked into cake? Exactly. Then you blanket the chocolate hazelnut cake with milk chocolate ganache that was steeped with a cinnamon stick to give it just one more lovely layer of flavor. Then, you chop roasted hazelnuts and layer those over the top. Then, you blanket the whole business with salted caramel sauce. It’s like putting the best candy bar ever in between a cake. A chocolate hazelnut cake. I know. Then you repeat that two more times and coat the whole business with the milk chocolate ganache. You know you’re on target when the crumb coat is needed to hold in the caramel sauce and chopped hazelnuts.

Salted caramel blankets the chopped hazelnuts with blanket the milk chocolate caramel ganache with covers the brandy brown sugar soaked chocolate hazelnut cake.
Salted caramel blankets the chopped hazelnuts with blanket the milk chocolate caramel ganache with covers the brandy brown sugar soaked chocolate hazelnut cake.

Then, in a last flourish of sophistication, you drench it all with a layer of dark chocolate ganache. And you add 6 candied hazelnuts because 6 people will be enjoying the cake. Sprinkle with some pink Himalayan salt and voilà–it’s the perfect cake for Lesley to give to her beloved. It is sophisticated and whimsical, it is smart and sweet, it is luscious and decadent, but it also shows an appropriate amount of restraint for someone as high-class as she is down to earth. Now that’s a cake for Lesley.  But if, in a moment of weakness, I make another just to keep here and nosh on, I’m sure she’ll understand.

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