Every year for my birthday my wonderful husband makes me a dessert. Not just any old birthday cake, mind you. I get to choose whatever I want, and he makes it. No matter how hard. No matter how many steps. So, of course, I always choose a dessert that I wouldn’t make for myself. He does this out of love for me. He does this extravagant thing because he knows how much I love it. Thus, Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake or “what have I gotten my husband into?”
Last year I chose Lemon Cloud Tart with Salted Caramel Sauce. Oh that was a good choice.
This year I decided to choose something chocolaty. I flipped though some recipes – pages torn from magazines. One stuck out to me – Martha Stewart’s Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake. And, I liked the description of the cake in the magazine, “It’s less complicated to create than your guests will guess.” I was sold. Chocolate. Looks great. I love hazelnuts. And, a little less work for Dan. Awesome! Sign me up!
Well, the time came for me to make sure that we had all the ingredients in the house. There are four parts to this recipe, four different recipes:
- Chocolate Crepes
- Hazelnut Filling
- Chocolate Glaze
- and Candied Hazelnuts
First thing I noticed is that I wished there was a master ingredient list where they had taken all of the ingredients and combined them so that I wouldn’t have to check four different ingredient lists and add together all the different amounts of, say, butter to make sure that I had enough. So, I decided that when I posted this recipe, I would make the master ingredient list myself, and make it easier for others to create this cake.
Oops, second snag. In reading the ingredients in the Hazelnut Filling I found “hazelnut cream (see the Guide)”. Only, I had long ago thrown away “the Guide” (this recipe was originally printed in the magazine in January 2006). Hazelnut cream, is that Nutella? Is that hazelnuts that have been so finely ground that they become a paste? Is that something else?
Well, I know that they print all the Martha Stewart recipes on their website. There I found the note, “available from Whole Foods Market, www.wholefoods.com“. I checked Whole Foods’ website. No mention of hazelnut cream.
I read through the comments on the recipe on Martha’s site. Phrases like, “unbelievable disaster”, discouraged, “zero success”, “be brave”, “worst idea ever”, “crepes spilled all over the counter”, and (my favorite) “we picked at the fallen mess and it was really tasty” kept coming up. Oh no! What have I gotten my husband into?!?
But back to the hazelnut cream, there were many suggestions from hazelnut butter (like peanut butter), Nutella, hazelnut non-dairy creamer, or even a recipe to make your own. I decided to go with Nutella. Easily purchased and Dan wouldn’t have to make yet another part.
I was still more than a little worried about the difficulty of the cake. So, I decided to do a little blog searching. YumSugar said, “if you have the time and patience to make this beauty, it will be well worth it.” Well, at least that was encouraging… I guess.
I even came across a challenge from 2007. It seems that this cake was chosen as a Daring Bakers challenge where the bakers (bloggers, professional bakers, and experts) all had to make this cake and report on their results. The challenge came from Jumbo Empanadas And, it seems that they all (or almost all) had some type of issue with the recipe. More flour was needed. More filling was needed. More egg? More milk? And, their write ups are fraught with disaster stories. And, with frustrations. (Now I’m really worried!) My sweet husband has no idea what I’ve gotten him into. But, he’s excited about the cake (and so am I). And, I guess I’ll just hope for the best. I also decided that I wouldn’t tell him of these horror stories.
The cake took two days to create. The crepes alone took over an hour to cook (that’s after the batter had been resting in the ‘fridge overnight). The glaze chilled too much and had to be reheated to be spreadable again. The hazelnut filling looked amazing, but was simply a lot of work. The candied hazelnuts were the one thing that went well. He was masterful at this step! Which is amazing because many of the frustrations from the bloggers were about these candied hazelnuts and how impossible they were. Honestly, this is the one part of this recipe we’ll do again. They are stunning and quite tasty.
Ok, all that being said, the cake tastes amazing. It’s rich and decadent. The crepes are eggy and not too sweet. So, they make the perfect foil to the sweet hazelnut filling. The chocolate ganache is perfect: deep, rich, chocolate that enrobes the entire cake. Bittersweet dark chocolate that tastes so good. The candied hazelnuts are covered in that burnt sugar tastiness (you know the stuff that comes on top of the crème brulee that you peel off just to eat by itself). Oh so good! And, together, this cake is a wonderful symphony of chocolaty goodness as it slowly melts in your mouth because you want to savor it and taste it for a long time. (Partially I want to eat it slowly because I know how long it took to make, and shouldn’t I take as long to eat it?)
It looks stunning! I mean, I don’t know that I could come up with a better-looking dessert. This one (and please pardon the pun!) takes the cake. Just simply amazing.
Dan had a few comments after finishing the cake. He stated that if you’ve never made crepes before, don’t try this recipe. Perfect your crepe making skills first. And, have a good quality well seasoned crepe pan (luckily, we already had this). The crepes in this recipe are very difficult. As the eggs cook, the chocolate is melting in your crepe. This is not beginner stuff. He also said that this is an intermediate to advanced cake. Novices need not even try. This cake is definitely proof of love. He worked hard. Really hard.
Upon final reflection, I’m not going to post the master ingredient list or the recipe itself here on my blog. I can’t, in good conscience, let anyone do this to themselves.
If you really want to try something like this, here’s what I would suggest, Make a nice basic crepe like this one from allrecipes. Lay the crepes down on a plate and spread Nutella over the top. Continue layering crepes and Nutella until your cake is about 2-3 inches high. Cover with whipped cream or a simple chocolate ganache (the one in Martha’s recipe was good, just don’t let it cool too much before using). And, top with some chopped hazelnuts. That’ll give you a really pretty, really tasty, and nowhere near as difficult cake.
I think Dan’s final thoughts on the cake were this, “Next year, you’re getting pudding from a box for your birthday dessert.” Hmmm, I guess I deserve that one!