swiss hazelnut cake

Lately we have been carefully managing our weakness for cooking magazines with interesting recipes and the mandatory food porn shots. We discontinued Buon Appetit after decades as a loyal subscriber, and our occasional supermarket impulse buy Gourmet Magazine was unexpectedly shut down, ejecting editor Ruth Reichel into the next phase of her food centered life. The normally tempting Cucina Italiano mag seems to have escaped our notice for some time now, although ms ani fell into a one year subscription of Food and Wine to help out a Catholic school fund raising nephew, but our last chance renewal notice has come and gone now, so maybe we are over that too, though we found a few good ideas there that we actually brought to fruition. It is not an insignificant factor that the 21st century internet coupled with the dominant search engine of our time puts the world's recipe collection at our fingertips. Google away.

Frankly we never really understood the philosophical differences between America's Test Kitchen and Cooks Country.  We are fans of both PBS shows and have been known to actually buy an occasional issue of the first show's magazine Cook's Illustrated, and we love the usual suspects behind both outside faces of the same beloved food institution. Occasionally they try to entice us into starting a magazine subscription with a free sample issue in the old fashioned paper junk mail stream. We take notice. This time it was Cooks Country, and were moved to try two recipes in a short space of time. First a baked pasta version of their ziti with sausage and spinach dish, then this dessert. Their background story speaks of a well-known Italian bakery in Philadelphia which naturally won't divulge the recipe for its famous Swiss Hazelnut Cake, so the wise guys at Kimball's kitchen decided to recreate it based on their infinite knowledge of the fine points of cuisine and a bit of "we can do this too" bravado.

They claimed to have simplified the amount of work involved in making this dish, using Fluff brand marshmallow creme as a base for their light icing, but then go to great lengths to get shaved chocolate to cover the entire surface of the cake, an effort we could simply never consider doing for its marginal benefit. We just grated 60 percent bittersweet chocolate over the top of the cake and a bit on the upper sides with a two person technique tilting the case as it is rotated, to allow gravity to do its thing, a force well known to pull objects towards the center of the Earth, or in practical terms, "straight down".

Since we did not seem to have a second 9 inch layer cake pan on hand, and did not even remember where the first one was offhand, we went with our decades old unused Angel food cake pan (our favorite childhood cake was white Angel food box cake with fat laden chocolate shortening and confectioner's sugar icing, often served for dr bobby birthdays), which also promised easier slicing without worrying about the pointy slices all meeting in the center of a round cake, making slice extraction more difficult. This change of pan required slicing the cooled cake into two layers with our decades old Magic Knife that has an adjustable guide to get just the right uniform thickness, except in practice somehow the dr bob application of this device missed the midpoint. No matter, the result was still acceptable. There remained only the test of taste to justify this effort.

We put the cake on a pedestal so to speak, our beautiful clear class covered cake display stand that we acquired somehow (hard to remember how, since with hindsight it seems pretty frivolous). Ani kept asking about refrigerating this thing, but that required removal from its pedestal, then what? bob left it there a few days until the extended family was back at our place (the glass pedestal does not travel well) on Christmas day for the taste test. Unanimous positive response. Not too sweet (not even for dessert indifferent ani), yet light and delightful to chow down. It seemed to resist molding or other obvious signs of deterioration, so maybe the room temperature environment was not so dangerous to our health. Oh yeah, the next generation dr bob cooking school student/nephew Shant collaborated on all steps of this production number.


1/2 c (2 oz) skin-on (?) hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
dry stuff:
1 1/4 c (5 oz) cake flour
1 c (7 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
wet stuff:
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/4 c water
3 large egg yolks, plus 5 large whites (5 eggs separated, save 2 yolks in the fridge for another destiny)
2 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cream of tartar
24 T (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 t salt
1 3/4 c (7 oz) confectioners' sugar
12 oz (2 2/3 c) Fluff brand marshmallow crème (3/4 of the 16oz container)
2 T hazelnut liqueur container
2 oz bittersweet bar chocolate


  1. Prep the hazelnuts (hasslenuts?) first, toasting them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for aobut 10 minutes. Let cool, then crumb in a food processor.
  2. Cut parchment paper rounds to fit into the bottom of two round 9 inch cake pans, or the donut shaped Angel food cake pan, which requires a bit more skill to get the hole right for the center. Spray the parchment paper bottom(s) but not the sides of the pan(s) with cooking spray.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees at some appropriate point during the following steps.
  4. Whisk together the cake dry stuff in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together the cake wet stuff (minus the egg whites and tartar) in a separate bowl, then whisk the latter into the former (wet into dry) until a smooth batter is achieved.
  6. In a KitchenAid stand mixer (or some competing product) fit with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about a minute, then whip at medium high until soft peaks form, ybe 2 -- 3 minutes. Our machine only has numbered speeds, so you have to inject some educated guess about what medium high means.
  7. Then fold the egg whites into the batter gently, trying to retain the air content of the whites.
  8. Pour into your pre-prepared cake pans (equally if using 2), then tap them on the counter to remove air pockets.
  9. Bake until tops are light golden brown and the cake(s) spring back when pressed lightly in center, 25 to 28 minutes for the 2 pan approach, another 20 or so minutes perhaps if the Angel food path is taken, check frequently.
  10. Let the cake(s) cool in their pan(s) for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert them onto wire rack(s). Discard the parchment paper and let them cool completely, at least an hour. For the Angel food pan version, pull the bottom out and run the knife under the parchment paper to make sure it is released, then invert to remove from the bottom and center pan element.
  11. When ready to make the icing, whip the butter and salt on medium speed in a  stand mixer fit with a clean whisk until smooth, then slowly add the sugar on low speed, then increase speed to medium and whip until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed..
  12. Add the marshmallow crème, increase the speed to medium-high, and whip until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the hazelnut liqueur, return the speed to medium-high, and whip to incorporate, about 30 seconds.
  13. Assembly time. Cut the Angel food cake into two layers if doing that variation, use your imagination, it doesn't have to be perfect. Put the lower layer onto your cake plate and ice the top with about 1/3 of the icing then place the second layer in place and ice the top and sides. Figure this part out yourself.
  14. Then put about an ounce or two of the chocolate bar broken or cut into pieces that fit into a rotating cheese grater and grate away over the top. If you have a partner, try to tilt the cake to get some on the sides. If you really love chocolate, you can add more. "To taste" is the key word pair here. If you are into food masochism, look up the original recipe for their intense chocolate adhesion process.


  1.  Cook's Country Swiss Hazelnut Cake [Dec/Jan 2016]. Following our earlier harvested pasta recipe.
  2. America's Test Kitchen.The usual suspects behind these entertaining mags are listed here.
  3. Skin on hazelnuts? They claimed that after roasting and cooling and crumbing, the skin flecks contribute to the speckled texture of the cake, but we didn't buy it, just get skinless or partially skinned hazelnuts (think Trader Joe's) and forget it. We roasted them about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then tried to cool them down quickly in the freezer until we could wait no longer, then jammed them in the food processor, making way too many crumbs, the excess of which ended up in a zip-locked bag in the fridge.
  4. Illustrations available.
swisshazelnutcake.htm: 26-dec-2015 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]