The world is in need of some comfort. Oh, how much in need. The past weeks have been pretty rotten, world-wise. Paris, Japan, Beirut, Mali. My heart is full of compassion and yearning to help in some tangible way while I lift up our aching world in prayer. I suppose I subconsciously sought to create comfort when I went into the kitchen on my day off, because that is what this hazelnut cake ended up as: consolation, comfort, warmth, kindness. And really, what is cooking really but a desire to create consolation, comfort, warmth, nourishment? I can't tangibly comfort any of the victims or their families and friends and loved ones. But I can, by comforting and nourishing my own family at the very least do it with them in mind. There is something in the ritual of preparing food and watching it while it cooks and taking care with its presentation that I find essentially therapeutic. I realize food isn't therapy. But the preparation of it, the moments built around it, that definitely counts as therapy. And it comes lovingly full circle when you get to share it with people you love. And what better time do this than at Thanksgiving, when we get to thank God for all the gifts he has given us? I know the world-events over the past weeks have given me a far broader perspective of my blessings than ever before.
I'm making this cake again for Thanksgiving dinner, it was that well-beloved....the oven-roasted balsamic cranberries were a last-minute addition after Whole Foods was closed due to a power outage and I was unable to get figs and Trader Joe's didn't have cherries. I'm including the recipe for the balsamic cranberries, but any sort of warm fruit compote would do well here as well as an espresso glaze, or chocolate ganache. Essentially, have at it. I based my recipe for the cake off the one found on The Answer Is Cake, making a couple slight alterations. This cake is not only a fun idea for a departure from classic holiday desserts (Thanksgiving! Christmas! New Years!) but also an embrace for our hurting world. Make it for someone you love and enjoy having them close. Also, eating it warm is like receiving a hug from someone who hugs amazingly well so I recommend doing that with a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Who doesn't need more hugs in their life?
Italian Hazelnut Cake
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pinches salt
1/4 teaspoon mace
3/4 cups plus 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, divided
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one small orange
1/4 cup milk at room temperature
- To toast hazelnuts, spread out in single layer on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes or until golden. Be sure not to burn them! Remove from oven and wrap in clean dishtowel to steam. Roll inside towel to knock off the majority of the hazelnut skins.
- Grind hazelnuts with flour, salt, and mace in a food processor until the nuts have become powdery. Pour into bowl and set aside.
- Chop remaining hazelnuts and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together by hand until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and orange zest.
- Alternate adding hazelnut mixture to the egg mixture with milk until just incorporated. Fold in chopped hazelnuts.
- Butter and flour 8" round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Pour cake batter into pan.
- Bake cake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 28-30 minutes until golden on top. Cool slightly, then flip onto plate and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with balsamic cranberries and small scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Balsamic Oven-Roasted Cranberries
1 pound of fresh cranberries
1/3 cup high-quality balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup natural cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup high-quality olive oil
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and dry cranberries and spread on tray. Drizzle with olive oil.
- In a small saucepan on the stove, heat balsamic vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Drizzle over cranberries and toss to make sure they are completely covered.
- Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until cranberries have begun to burst their jackets. Remove from oven and allow the juice to caramelize around the cranberries before scooping gently into a bowl.
Happy Thanksgiving, Darlings!