As some of you may know, I recently enrolled in a photography class here in Atlanta to learn how to take better photos for my blog. When I started my blog last November, I was not aware of the incredible importance of having beautiful pictures to go along with your recipes. I knew many food bloggers had breathtaking shots on their posts, but I figured that I would never get there, so why bother.
Well, then…I changed my mind! Every woman has the prerogative to do that, so I did! I decided that I too would like to have some pretty pictures of my food (maybe not as pretty as many, but definitely an improvement from the early days).
So, I enrolled in Digital 101
to relieve my husband from his photography duties to really understand some of the fundamentals of a digital camera. Now, of course, my hubby could have explained the same things (since he is really good at taking pictures), but it always seems to make more sense when you pay to hear the exact same information! I do not know why that is true, but it is!
I was so committed to learning how to better my photo skills this that I actually went to Oakland Cemetery in the pouring down rain one Sunday afternoon for a class field trip. Only two
drenched fools students showed up that day. Some of the other people waited until a sunny day and did their homework assignment then. Why did I not do that??? Heh, at least it showed my sincere desire to learn! Besides, how much creepier can a cemetery be than on a rainy, dark and windy day? It made for perfect pics of frightening things (if you are into that).
Since I wanted to get better at food photography, I was bringing in photos of my food every week to show my progress for my homework assignments (that of course, would be every week other than the week I took the creepy cemetery pics!). While other people were bringing in pictures of scenery, weddings, co-workers, screaming toddlers, flowers, etc. I was sharing cupcakes, steak and rice salad! Well, guess who got to bring show and tell to the last class?! That would be me! (How come they didn’t ask the one girl to bring in her screaming toddler???)
So anyway, It was rather sad last week to say good-bye to my instructor Jeff (who really has great talent and a terrific sense of humor) as well as my classmates. Naturally, I had to show these fellow classmates that I really did know how to cook in addition to being able to take photos of food, so I decided to
let my classmates be guinea pigs try a recipe that is adapted from Nigella Lawson for her Nutella Cake. Who wouldn’t be impressed with a dark chocolate and hazelnut cake topped with ganache and more hazelnuts?! I know I was!
I prepared the cake the afternoon before and then refrigerated the cake with only the ganache. I did not want to refrigerate the hazelnuts because they would become soft. The next morning I let the cake come to room temperature and then topped it with the hazelnuts so that the ganache would not crack. After a few final touches, I took a few pics and brought them into class with the cake. I wonder if I got an “A”!
This cake is incredibly dense and rich. It is quite simple to prepare and can be made ahead. What a beautiful dessert to make for something special (such as my last photography class)!
We have really enjoyed the rest of the cake (so much for light and healthy dishes…).
Nutella Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
Adapted from Nigella Lawson and Epicurious
Makes one 9-inch cake
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
pinch table salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutellla
1 tablespoon Frangelico
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Ghiardelli)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (Ghiardelli)
2 ounces whole hazelnuts, toasted and cut in half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.
Add a large tablespoon of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 35-40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. (My cake was done in 35 minutes). Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.
For ganache and hazelnuts:
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, or toaster oven shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 4 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. If hazelnuts came with skins on, put them in a towel after toasting and rub around; this will remove most of the skins. Cut in half.
Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with heavy cream and Frangelico over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over.
This cake is at its best when served at room temperature.