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it’s all about geometry

Recipe: chocolate hazelnut torte

Oh my! I had no idea that my knife skills instructor could evoke such… interest from my readers! Honestly, weren’t you all impressed with the chiffonade? Well, here is one last shot from class – something I finally learned to do correctly:

knife honing

Speaking of knives, Adrienne, the winner of the Kyocera ceramic knife giveaway, finally received hers and sent me a picture of her happy new knife. I thought the dreamy look on her face was too adorable not to post. She looks like a pro! (courtesy Adrienne):


How often do you start out in the kitchen with the intention of making one thing, only to wind up with an end-product that is not what you had in mind? It tends to happen more often with pastries and desserts for me. Is that because I occasionally screw things up when making pastries, but rarely have moments like that when cooking anything savory? I think I am a more confident savory cook. Even so, I really enjoy futzing about with the sweets.

semi-sweet and milk chocolates with hazelnut butter

I had an extra 11×17-inch sheet of chocolate chiffon cake lying around from when I made chocolate mousse bombes and thought I’d try using it in a triangle torte. My pastry class made a triangle torte as a group and I’ve seen it again in a few of my cookbooks. Instead of the denser, tackier cake from the class recipe (I believe it comes from Pure Chocolate), the chocolate chiffon was airy and thicker. I sliced the cake in half (thus, two 8.5×11-inch cakes) and then sliced them into layers, resulting in four 8.5×11-inch cake layers.

adding warm chocolate for the hazelnut filling

The hazelnut filling calls for hazelnut praline paste, which in my mind, is heaven. We had a giant bucket of it to use in our pastry class, but I have yet to find it easily around here (I’m not quite ready to order the Valrhona bucket for $100+). I used hazelnut butter with a little sugar as a substitute. I may have overwhipped the filling as I was mucking around with some dirty dishes. It came out a little stiffer than the creamy filling I remembered from class.

spreading the filling over the first cake layer

Assembling all four layers, I barely had enough filling to spread. In the future, I think I will make double the filling because of the nature of the triangle torte. I cut the torte in half (now two 4.25×11-inch tortes) and wrapped the two pieces in plastic and popped them into the freezer for a few hours.

two cakes

I took a cake and rested it on one end and cut diagonally down the length of it (please please please be careful doing this). Because my filling was on the brittle side, many of the smaller pieces began to fall off and the whole thing was a bit of a mess. Here is where I think extra filling (especially if done right – it should be creamy and not pasty) would have helped. After the diagonal slice, you are supposed to put the two pieces together to form a triangular shape – but there is nothing to hold the two abutting cake layers together aside from goodwill. I would have layered some hazelnut filling in there for consistency and for some “glue”.

the diagonal slice

I made the glaze, the whole time fretting over this structurally unsound cake. While the glaze cooled (this glaze is from another recipe because my pen died while our chef dictated the recipe in class – I know.. what a clusterfuck, right?) I decided that I wasn’t going to wind up with two crappy looking triangles, so I cut the second cake into tall rectangles.

for the glaze: chocolate and cream

stir in some softened butter

Glazing seemed to hold the triangle pieces together somewhat, but it wasn’t as refined as I knew it should have been and it bothers my sense of symmetry that there isn’t a band of hazelnut filling down the center.

it held up alright

The rectangles were much easier and in my opinion, prettier. I learned a nice trick from Figs when glazing pastries: one of those little squirty bottles (like a ketchup bottle) is very very handy for glazing vertical sides.

rectangles made me happier

I brought these little treats to my ski betties a few weeks ago and saved two for Jeremy. I wasn’t entirely happy with the ordeal, despite everyone’s delighted squeals. At least I know better now. The hazelnut paste should be creamy and not thick or else it won’t “stick” to the cake layers and all hell will break loose. I’ll also double the amount of filling should I choose to attempt the triangle shape again. And maybe I will use a denser, tackier cake base recipe instead of a chocolate chiffon, which was fine, but I think a different texture might work better. [Sorry, I don’t want to give you the recipe that chef gave us in class because he made an altitude adjustment error and my pen was running out of ink and my notes are incredibly confusing and it was a *crazy* night. I can’t bear the thought of giving you a recipe that will probably tank.]

the result of my disasters

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
[print recipe]
modified from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow and Helene Siegel
makes two triangle tortes

one 11×17-inch sheet of chocolate chiffon cake
hazelnut filling
chocolate glaze

hazelnut filling
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
8 oz. milk chocolate
1/4 cup hazelnut praline paste (I used hazelnut butter plus 2 tsps of sugar)
4 oz. butter, softened

Whip the butter with a paddle attachment. While whipping the butter, melt everything else in a saucepan over medium to low heat. Remove from heat and let cool to warm. When the butter is light and fluffy, add the slightly warm chocolate all at once and beat for 5-6 minutes. The filling should be creamy and not pasty.

chocolate glaze
6 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened, cut into 4 pieces

Make the glaze last. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and add chocolate, stirring gently (don’t incorporate too much air). Blend in the butter. The temperature should be 110-115°F when you are ready to use it.

To assemble: Cut the cake in half into two 8.5×11-inch cakes. Then horizontally slice each cake into two layers resulting in four 8.5×11-inch layers. Spread a third of the hazelnut filling over one layer of cake. Set a second layer of cake on the filling, then repeat until you have four layers of cake and three layers of hazelnut filling. Cut the cake into two cakes (now two 4.25×11-inch cakes). Wrap them in plastic and freeze for a couple of hours. Remove the cakes from the freezer and unwrap. Stand one cake on end and slice on a diagonal along the length of the cake. Arrange the pieces so that the flat ends abut to form a triangle with layers running vertically. [Note: Here is where I would add another layer of filling in between the two cake layers.] Set the cake on a cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch drips. With warm glaze at the ready, pour over the cake and let set. Repeat with second cake. Serve.

50 nibbles at “it’s all about geometry”

  1. heather says:

    This looks AMAZING!! Thanks!

  2. Amy says:

    Swoon. That cakes looks freaking awesome. And the dude… well, he’s swoon-worthy, as well.

  3. Kitty says:

    If I could just eat a piece of that cake, I think I would die and go to heaven.

  4. Kitt says:

    You should put a warning to diabetics at the top of this post, Jen. And not just for the dessert. Chef Mike looks highly delectable, too.

    Adrienne, such a great pic! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Lily says:

    Drooling over here again…

    This looks awesome but I just know that I’d get chocolate on the ceiling with this recipe. I’ll try it some day and let you know. :)

  6. Pearl says:

    Goodness. You could open up a bakery.

  7. Manisha says:

    But it is symmetric, even without that band of hazelnut down the center!
    *drool* and more *drool*
    And gosh, Adrienne is a cutie!

  8. Rosa says:

    What a great recipe! I’d love a slice of that pretty torte, mmhhh…



  9. jennywenny says:

    Oh my goodness. Drool. Chocolate hazelnut. mmmm

  10. Phoo-D says:

    Beautiful cake – thanks for the squirt bottle glaze tip, that is a great idea.

  11. Randi says:

    this was definitely NO disaster. Also, I’m pretty sure your chef is Jared Leto.

  12. Karen B says:

    I would eat one of your “disasters” any day! I really prefer baking to cooking dinner…I wonder if my family would mind if I made your cake for dinner tonight. Mmmm….

  13. Barbara says:

    Woohoo … that Chef is definitely sizzling … I fully understand your itch to have this guy 20 weeks around ;-)) Just kidding, but hells bells – a techer this hot would definitely improve my concentration … or totally destroy it

    Love your cakes – yes, all of them, just looking at the gorgeous pictures puts a pound or two on my hips ;-)) In austria we call such things “Hueftgold” (hip gold) because they go straight from the mouth (or the eye in some cases) to the hips.

    Please keep going with your “disasters” – I wish my cakes, even if they turn out all well, would look this good.

  14. Jess says:

    The strawberry in the lower-right-hand-side of the last photograph blew my mind. Now why didn’t I think of that?

  15. barbara says:


  16. Amy says:

    Even with the geometric futzing, it turned out beautifully…I love the ganache cascading down the side. Looks delicious, Jen. :)

  17. Jennifer says:

    Those look so amazing! The ganache has won me over!

  18. Peter says:

    If only my disasters would turn out half so beautifully…

  19. Angelique says:

    Um, is this knife skills instructor single? I can’t believe a man that looks like him and bakes like him lives within 30 miles of me. I wish my baking disasters looked so delicious and cute!

  20. farmerpam says:

    I just made 4 pounds of butter, had to see what you where up to and a good recipe to use some of it in. Chocolate and butter, works for me. And ho baby is that chef a babe or what? ;)

  21. Madam Chow says:

    That does not look like a disaster to me – it looks fabulous!

  22. stephanie says:

    Oh I was thinking the SAME thing about the chef… mmm mmmm mmm.. Yummy.

    Oh, the cake looked great too.

  23. Mrs Ergül says:

    This is no disaster by any sense! So lovely! I like the strawberry flower at the side!

  24. charlane says:

    gorgeous work – I love the rectangles too

  25. Bri says:

    :O Seeing strawberries like that always blows my mind. and makes me want a strawberry…..

    Huh. Looks yum! Specially the rectangles, triangles never seem to taste as good and four sided shapes.

  26. Diana Banana says:

    you can always say that your triangle cake was meant to evoke mayan temples, where chocolate was the drink of the gods…

    i love your your disasters always end up looking gorgeous, and seriously delicious.

  27. cindy says:

    i wish all of my disasters looked that good…and the squirty-bottle tip is amazing, i had to actually write it down so i can use that trick next time. great, lovely photos!

  28. Tartelette says:

    Well done. As you can guess I did not even try to follow your geometric calculations…(and it’s a wonder how I can get bread formulas right on the first try!).
    It looks heavenly and I am sure it tasted as such!

  29. Irene says:

    I don’t know, I’m not exactly an expert here, but it looks damn good to me!

  30. Margie says:

    Dang! A beautiful cake AND THAT BEAUTIFUL CHEF (again)!! Oh, and a lovely Adrienne…yes, she is adorable and she is obviously wielding that thing wisely. :)

    Now…back to Chef M&M’s……………….


    P.S. The cake is yummy too. You had me laughing outloud when I saw the bowl of broken chocolate awaiting the cream; the intro into the photo had me believing the cake had crumbled entirely. You are so patient. I would have simply whipped everything into a nice bowl and called it a trifle. lol.

  31. Asianmommy says:

    Your disasters look beautiful!

  32. Blair says:

    I’m new to the food blogging world. Your hazelnut cake looks like a great treat! I will have to give it a go in the future. Just this week I made the espresso fudge cake. Quite the undertaking and quite delicious.

    Want to buy: Dreamy “knife skills instructor”

  33. Fiona says:

    Looks like a perfectly refined Little Debbie cake. Is that horrible to say?

    I loved Little Debbie cakes as a child, partly because they were Strictly Forbidden! But we’re all grown up now, right? So this is like that, except for adults. And much, much better. Much.

  34. JessW says:

    My disaster = a loaf of bread that shattered when I threw it on the ground. That deliciousness of yours does not equal disaster!

    And I think you put that picture up there just to rub it in, right? What a hottie. I say sign up for the 20 weeks of class and take lots of pictures for us :)

  35. peabody says:

    The rectangles do look better. But no matter what it all looks good to me.

  36. jo says:

    Oh my hit me! These are way too evil to be looked upon!

  37. Gita says:

    Oh my God – Cake looks awesome. If only my disasters turn out half as beautiful.

    BTW, the chef is a hottie.

  38. Macie says:

    WOW! It’s beautiful!

  39. Miss Jane says:

    Love the pictures here. For the triangles, definitely glue the two pieces together with more filling. I would also suggest doing a crumb coat on them and letting that chill and then glazing with chocolate for a smoother finish.
    Using a chocolate chiffon for this is tricky. You might want to freeze it to get less crumbling when cutting to assemble.

  40. Chez Us says:

    The cake is lovely and the guy …… well, I would love to take a knife honing class from him any day!

  41. Aran says:

    i didn’t want sound cheesy before but i thought the same when i saw him on your old post. he reminds me of a clean and better looking Jared Leto. no? am I crazy? i had such a crush on Jared Leto when he was in that teenage show with Claire Danes… geez, i’m old!

  42. Hillary says:

    Wait…what went wrong again? That looks delicious!

  43. Lori says:

    What chiffonade? What honing?

  44. Lindsay says:

    I see perfection! :)

  45. Pinky says:

    Yeah, I’ve never thought about taking a knife class before, but now…. And I agree with Aran, total Jared Leto, and I had a crush on him in My So Called Life as well. Sigh….

  46. Mollie says:

    I wish my disasters turned out so well…

  47. jenyu says:

    Heather – thank you.

    Amy – ha ha ;)

    Kitty – oh goodness, don’t die!

    Kitt – you can meet him yourself, my dear. Sign up for a class at CSR :)

    Lily – wow, chocolate on the ceiling? I have yet to do that. Walls, yes – ceiling… not yet ;)

    Pearl – can you imagine the bad mood I’d be in from all of that heat?

    Manisha – I know ;) But it still bugged me! Isn’t Adrienne adorable?

    Rosa – thanks!

    Jennywenny – a great combo!

    Phoo-D – I love the squirt bottle too – great for frosting or decorations or plating.

    Randi – I had never heard of Jared Leto until you guys brought him up!

    Karen – I’ll bet they’d be surprised, but they probably wouldn’t mind ;)

    Barbara – ah ha ha, I was interested in taking the 20 week course because of the COURSE. There are many chefs who teach at CSR, so likely Chef Michael wouldn’t be the instructor ;)

    Jess – honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the strawberry and I just began chopping it up.

    Barbara – :)

    Amy – thanks! I couldn’t decide between the dripping look or a full on glaze. Turns out I didn’t have enough glaze for a full on glaze.

    Jennifer – thank you :)

    Peter – well, you learn to salvage things when you screw up as often as I do!

    Angelique – I dunno! You can call up CSR and find out.

    Farmerpam – Oh hon, I wish you were my neighbor. You wouldn’t believe how much butter I go through in one week of baking…

    Madam Chow – thanks, you’re so sweet.

    Stephanie – ha ha…

    Mrs. E – thanks.

    Charlane – they worked out alright, I guess!

    Bri – triangles are a gimmick, but I wanted to try it out.

    Diana – you’re so clever! I’ll keep that in mind.

    Cindy – I’m all about the tricks of the squirty bottle!

    Tartelette – too sweet for me ;) But the chocolate lovers liked it!

    Irene – thanks :)

    Margie – if the cake had crumbled into non-recognition, I probably wouldn’t have blogged it at all ;)

    Asianmommy – aww, thanks.

    Blair – ha ha ha, you will apparently have to get in line behind all of the others!

    Fiona – no, it’s not horrible. Some of the best food is glorified white trash food.

    JessW – oh no! I’m sorry about the bread. I don’t bake bread too often at my elevation, but I wonder if shattering bread is in my future?

    Peabody – you’re such a sweet tooth ;)

    Jo – ha!

    Gita – you ladies are soooo brazen! ;)

    Macie – thanks!

    Miss Jane – that sounds good. I think the proportions on this recipe were whack, but I also knew the chiffon would be too airy compared to the original recipe.

    Chez Us – now what would Lenny say?!

    Aran – I’d say you’re about as old as I am, sweetie! You guys are so funny.

    Hillary – :)

    Lori – heh heh!

    Lindsay – thanks.

    Pinky – boy, I must have been busy playing volleyball or starting grad school because this was not on my radar at all!

    Mollie – xxoo.

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