Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cake (Low Carb and Gluten Free)

I received so many wonderful birthday wishes on this blog, I can't thank you all enough. I put up that post on a whim and it got a much greater response than I expected. Who knew I had so many foodie friends? I suppose it speaks to the power of food and its ability to connect us all, despite our differences. I suppose it also speaks to the power of the internet and its ability to connect us all, regardless of distance. For me, it took a quiet birthday and made it all the more special.

The following day was my actual "celebration". I had my choice of restaurants and I chose Bertucci's. I know we foodies are supposed to disdain chains in favour of the independent, chef-run restaurants, but I've developed a healthy appreciation for family chains. See, I have kids. And even relatively well-behaved kids, such as mine are, are always slightly loud and somewhat embarrassing in public. A chain restaurant like Bertucci's gives me peace of mind. I know what I am getting into when I go, and the staff know what they are getting into when they take the job. The food is unspectacular but consistent, the service is quick and I don't have to worry that I am foisting my children on folks looking for a quiet, romantic dinner. Bertucci's, being a pasta chain, might seem like an unlikely choice for a diabetic, but I have a great meal picked out there. Tuscan chicken wings and grilled tuscan veggies. Both are very good and easy on my glucose levels.

We came home to presents and my birthday cake, baked by yours truly. I dreamed up this cake a few weeks ago and was very much looking forward to seeing how it played out. Two layers of coconut flour-based chocolate cake, with a layer of chocolate hazelnut cream and crunchy toasted hazelnuts and topped by a dark chocolate ganache. Would it live up to the cake in my imagination? Could a low carb, gluten free layer cake possibly be any good? Would my kids like it? Actually, who cares about the long as I liked it, I'd consider it a success.

The Results: And a success it was. And not just in a "well, it's pretty good for a low carb, gluten free cake" way. Nope, this was really good cake all around. Thank goodness, as I really was looking forward to it and would have been horribly disappointed if it hadn't worked out. The layers of cake were moist and held together well, the hazelnut cream in the middle was delicious, and you can't go wrong with chocolate ganache. Perhaps my only complaint is that I wanted more hazelnut flavour. I'd bought a bottle of hazelnut extract and added to both the cake layers and the chocolate ganache, but it really didn't come through. Only the hazelnut cream in the middle had any real hazelnut flavour. Still, I loved it and would recommend this cake to everyone, not just diabetics, low carbers and celiacs!

This is by no means the lowest carb dessert I've ever made, but hey, it was my birthday. I'd consider this a controlled indulgence.

Hazelnut Crunch Layer Cake

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 eggs
1 tsp vanilla or hazelnut extract
1/2 tsp liquid stevia extract
3/4 cup almond milk

Hazelnut Cream:
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
2 tbsp vegetable or nut oil
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp erythritol, preferably powdered
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream

Chocolate Ganache:
5 oz high % cacao chocolate (I use Lindt 85%)
4 tbsp butter

1/4 cup toasted, husked hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F, and line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease paper and sides of pan.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut flour, erythritol, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat eggs with vanilla or hazelnut extract and stevia extract until frothy. Add butter/cocoa mixture to eggs and beat until combined. Add half of coconut flour mixture and beat on low for a few moments, then add almond milk and beat in thoroughly. Add remaining coconut flour mixture and beat on low, then use a rubber spatula to stir and make sure all ingredients are well combined.

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are set and tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then flip out onto wire rack to cool completely.

For the hazelnut cream, grind hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground and beginning to clump together. Add remaining ingredients and continue to process until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides of processor with a rubber spatula as needed*.

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir in hazelnut mixture until fully combined.

Spread hazelnut cream on one layer of cake, then sprinkle with 2 tbsp of chopped, toasted hazelnuts. Top with second layer of cake.

For the ganache, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until completely smooth. Pour about half over the top of prepared cake and spread with an offset spatula. Pour remaining ganache over top of prepared cake and spread to the edges, allowing some ganache to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining chopped hazelnuts.

*Note: this is essentially homemade nutella. I made a larger batch of it a few days ahead, and when it came time to make the cake, I used about 1/2 - 3/4 cup to mix with the whipped cream. If you make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, you will want to bring it to room temperature, or even a bit warmer by heating gently in your microwave, before mixing it into the whipped cream.

Serves 16. Each serving has a total of 14.2g of carbs, and 3.9g of fiber, but only 9.9g of carbs if you subtract erythritol. Total net carbs (minus fiber and erythritol) is 6g.

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