Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I was a winged obsessive, my moonlit feathers were paper. I lived hardly at all among men and women; I spoke only to angels. How fortunate my days, how charged and meaningful the nights’ continuous silence and opacity.” – Louise Glück, from “Ancient Text”

This years birthday cake. Twenty-one! The truth, I don’t usually celebrate. Call it elitist or detached (or both), but rejoicing age, another year older, has never been something I yearned for. I blame my love for American Beauty on the sort-of self-deprecating ideals that stem. The kind of societal ideals that entail certain life’s milestones to be reached within the perimeters of a new age. A kind of pursuit in identity and self-obsession, that always set my warped line amongst the straight. A good cake, that’s the extent I’m willing to go.

This Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream is for those that have stuck by with me through it all, the highs and lows. We’ve seen each other’s progression and shared an unwavering pathological need for the sweeter things in life, more cake and more beauty. I worked hard on this and I wish I could share a slice of this cake with you all. So, let’s celebrate ourselves rather than age together.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It’s a riff on the classic chocolate, complete and utterly beloved at all birthday celebrations. It’s an ode to being extra and screwing with tradition. And it’s probably the best chocolate cake to come out of my kitchen. Because well, hazelnut.

The discovery of hazelnut was a lucky lack-of-flour fluke. And one, that fully incites the term the ‘best ever’. I spent a few weeks testing recipes that proclaim to be the ‘best ever chocolate cakes’…they were good but each lacked a certain flavour profile and textural notes that made a cake, irresistible. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream is comprised of three dense, rich and fragrant layers of an incredibly moist chocolate hazelnut cake. In between each layer is a thick spread of an impossibly silky smooth gianduja swiss meringue buttercream (that’s also spiked with hazelnut liquor!) and a generous amount of hazelnut praline, for texture and an extra dose of that infamous nutty rich taste. 

The smell and moistness of these cakes is everything. The taste, even more so. I can’t proclaim my undying love for it enough. I’ve always believed that hazelnuts contain addictive properties. It’s the only way to explain the world’s fascination with Nutella. They’re my choice of crack, with opium-esque all enslaving qualities. We ride or die together. If I could coax my body into developing filbertone (the main compounding flavour in hazelnuts) scented pheromones, I would.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

As for the frosting, I knew I wanted a buttercream that was just so good. And a Gianduja Swiss Meringue Buttercream it was. It’s light enough to offset against the chocolate hazelnut cakes, but rich enough to compliment and pair with the taste. If you haven’t had gianduja before, it’s like this chocolate hazelnut hybrid. A kind of luxurious and solidified counterpart of Nutella. But way better because it has 30% of pure hazelnut paste mixed into it’s rich body. 

It melts on the tongue, and is desired enough so that only speciality stores carry it. You could use a milk chocolate as it’s replacement, but do the extra leg work and find it. I brought mine back from New York, but you can easily purchase it online. Purchase more than you will need though, because trust me, you’ll crave it in all your baked goods…or straight, if that’s how you roll. You won’t regret it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Gianduja Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For the cake:
  • 350 grams (12.3 ounces) cake flour
  • 140 grams (5 ounces) hazelnut meal
  • 80 grams (2.8 ounces) dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 450 grams (15.8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 270 millilitres (9.5 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
  • 160 grams (5.6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 250 millilitres (8.8 ounces) boiling water
For the praline:
  • 115 grams (4 ounces) hazelnuts, lightly roasted
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 60 millilitres (2.1 ounces) water
For the gianduja swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces) gianduja, or milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 110 grams (3.8 ounces) 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 195 grams (6.8 ounces) egg whites
  • 280 grams (9.8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 500 grams (17.6 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For the cake:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease and line 3 x 18 cm (7 inch) cake tins with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift the cake flour, hazelnut meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Add in the eggs, milk, hazelnut liqueur and vanilla bean extract. Whisk to combine. Pour in the melted butter and whisk until just combined, then pour in the boiling water and whisk until smooth. The batter will be fairly liquid and runny.
  4. Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until risen and the tops spring bake when lightly pressed. A cake skewer inserted into the middles of the cakes should also come out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their tins for 15 minutes before turning out and onto a wire rack to let cool completely. Once the cakes have cooled, level off any domed tops with a serrated knife or cake leveller then set aside for assembly.
For the praline:
  1. Place the hazelnuts in the middle of a slipmat or baking tray lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Put the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally but never stirring, until the sugar is at a constant roiling boil and has developed into a deep golden amber colour. The mixture is ready when it reads 195 C (330 F) on a candy thermometer.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture all over the hazelnuts, making sure that they are all coated. Let sit until completely cool, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Once completely cool, break the hazelnut praline into small shards then place them in a food processor and blitz to form a finely texture crumb. Place them in a bowl and set aside for assembly.
For the gianduja swiss meringue buttercream:
  1. Place the finely chopped gianduja and dark chocolate into two separate medium sized bowls set over saucepans of barely simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Heat each chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula often, until smooth and melted. Remove the bowls from the heat and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a few centimetres or inches with water and place it over medium-high heat. Set the mixer bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.
  3. Heat the egg and sugar mixture, whisking often, until it reaches 70 C (160 F) on a candy thermometer. The sugar should be completed dissolved and the mixture hot to the touch. Once the mixture is at temperature, carefully remove the mixer bowl from the heat and place it onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Whisk the egg white mixture on medium-high speed, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it holds medium to stiff peaks. The bowl should no longer be hot to the touch and the meringue should be glossy and cool. Stop mixing and swap out the whisk attachment for the beater attachment.
  5. Set the mixer speed to medium-low. Add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Beat in the hazelnut liqueur and vanilla bean extract and the melted and slightly cooled gianduja and dark chocolate. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until the buttercream is thick, silky smooth and very fluffy, about 4 to 6 minutes.
For assembly:
  1. To assemble the cake, place the first levelled cake layer, cut side facing up, on a cake stand or serving platter.
  2. Use an offset spatula to spread about 3-4 tablespoons of the buttercream over the top of the cake then sprinkle over a generous amount of the crushed hazelnut praline, almost to the edges. Make sure not to get the praline to the edges of the cake, otherwise when you do a full buttercream coat of the cake - you may get a few stray praline crumbs on the outside. Gently press on the next cake layer and repeat by spreading over 3-4 tablespoons of the buttercream on the second cake layer then sprinkling over a generous amount of the crushed hazelnut praline. Top with the final cake layer, cut side facing down.
  3. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream over the entire cake to crumb coat it. Set the cake in the refrigerator so that the buttercream can harden - about 30 to 45 minutes. Once the buttercream has hardened, spread the remaining buttercream over the cake in a thick, smooth layer. Finally, place the cake again in the refrigerator to set the buttercream before serving, about an hour.
  4. Before slicing and serving, you can sprinkle over a bit of the remaining hazelnut over the top. You can also decorate the cake with pesticide-free flowers, if desired. Seal them on-top of the cake with a dollop of any extra buttercream.


  • Sabrina December 18, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Gorgeous cake! Chocolate and hazelnut has to be one of my favorite combinations 🙂

  • Laura | Tutti Dolci December 5, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    I adore anything chocolate hazelnut… what a stunning cake!

  • Laura November 28, 2016 at 5:44 am

    Wow, that cake looks like dream! Great photos too!

  • Gabriella November 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    How is this even real? This cake is a total stunner! And happy happy birthday to you! 🙂

  • Sherrie November 26, 2016 at 12:29 am

    TWENTY-ONE! Wow so much talent as such a young age. Everything you do is just my style Thalia. Wishing you a year of love and abundance, xx.

  • Jeanette November 25, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Wish I could do a pretty cake like this. Big cakes have never been my strong side, but if I practice I maybe can do it! It look delicious.

    It was great to use as a filling in buns, so I recommend you to try it 🙂

  • Valentina @Hortus November 23, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Hi Thalia, Happy birthday!
    I actually kind of share your sentiment about birthdays. But cake is still cake, right?
    And gianduja is THE BOMB. And to think that Nutella – pretty much just a sugar and palm oil paste now – was born from this, as hazelnuts were plentiful in Piedmont but cocoa was not. Glad you’re spreading the word about how great gianduja is!

  • Jenny Huang November 23, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Happy birthday girl! Ship me this cake!

  • Beeta @ Mon Petit Four November 23, 2016 at 1:45 am

    What a gorgeous cake! I wish I could have a slice of this right now. And those pretty little flowers on top…swoon!

  • Angela - Patisserie Makes Perfect November 22, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Thalia this looks great, happy 21st birthday. I have a friend’s birthday coming up and I think I will have to make this, it’s beautiful!

  • Amy November 22, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I love this post so much, lady. Happy birthday!

  • Joyce @ Sun Diego Eats November 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Happy birthday Thalia! I had no idea you were quite so young. Would take that lovely cake over the de riguer hangover one tends to be gifted with on your 21st in the US any day.

  • Gerry Speirs November 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Gorgeous!!! I’m reading this at breakfast and I’m dreaming of a huge slice right now 🙂

  • Mary November 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    It’s so pretty ! I love it 🙂

  • Claudia | The Brick Kitchen November 22, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Happy happy 21st birthday Thalia!! Hope you had a lovely day with all the best food and best people. And this cake is the height of decadence – definitely need to make it sometime this summer, my brothers love nutella more than anyone I know. Gorgeous flower decorations too! x

  • Aysegul November 22, 2016 at 4:33 am

    This cake is like all my dreams come true! I think that praline topping is EVERYTHING!
    Gorgeous photos as always. <3

  • Sues November 22, 2016 at 3:54 am

    This is the perfect cake!! I’m not big into my birthday either, but I will always accept cake!! Any excuse for it 🙂 Happy birthday!!

  • Rachel | La Pêche Fraîche November 22, 2016 at 12:54 am

    The most beautiful! I am in awe over the praline buttercream, I absolutely must add it to my must-make list. Happiest of birthdays, Thalia, and here’s to many, many more! xx

  • Nutmeg Nanny November 21, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    I’m not always one for celebrating either. This year I’m turning 35 so I plan on just staying in my house watching rubbish movies and eating sweets. Even though you’re not into celebrating I still think Happy Birthday! is in order. All of these flavors are the perfect twist to birthday cake. Pass me a slice.

  • Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes November 21, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are such a young pup. 🙂 Love the idea of hazelnut meal. I have used pecan flour and it rocked my world. I bet hazelnut is even better!!

  • Shelly @ Vegetarian 'Ventures November 21, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Happy birthday (even though you aren’t one for celebrating them – let’s just celebrate you making this cake instead, cool?). This looks SO decadent and gorgeous! Loving the way you decorated it! <3

  • heather (delicious not gorgeous) November 21, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    happy birthday! i feel like most people (or at least those in southern california) plan boozy trips to vegas for their 21st, but decadent cake with dreamy, whippy buttercream is much more my speed (:

  • betty November 21, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Oh my goodness, how decadent this looks. I love it. Happy birthday Thalia – still BLOWS my mind how young you are. I’m so glad we met in NY earlier this year – what a joy getting to know you.

  • Christiann November 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Um . Yes. This looks sooooo good!!!

  • Alice November 21, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    This is pretty much my dream cake! And it’s so beautiful, I fell in love the second I saw it on your story.

    But my ramblings aside, I just want to wish you a happy birthday! Hope your day was just what you wanted it to be.