Monday, 19 August 2013

Recipe: gluten-free hazelnut and almond cake with Nutella ganache

Gluten-free hazelnut and almond cake with Nutella ganache,
as made by EJ
It's taken me a while to crack this one - gluten-free cakes have a different chemistry to their wheat-based gluten-filled counterparts. Gluten acts as a binding agent providing moisture - so this needs to be accounted for when the gluten is removed from a recipe, I found my first few attempts at this sponge were far too dry (and I apologise to anyone who was subjected to taste-testing these). So I contacted Adriana Rabinovich from Gluten Free 4 Kids (who gave a wonderful talk at Food Blogger Connect this year about gluten-free baking), Adriana cast an eye over my recipe and advised a few valuable tweaks to get the balance right.

Hazelnut and almond sponge with Nutella ganache
I ended up adding a small quantity of ground almonds and some milk to the recipe and hey-presto, the sponge was not only beautifully risen and light, but was nicely moist (and three days later, was still rather good). I've baked using ground almonds instead of flour before - in a recipe for an orange and almond cake I created for fellow blogger Tamsin, at food and fitness blog Salad and Sequins - it's still one of my favourite recipes. Using ground almonds instead of flour creates a surprisingly fluffy sponge - the almond flavour is very subtle, close to non-existent when used in a small quantity alongside gluten-free flour - and so is a great base for many flavours.

This cake gets it's beautiful hazelnut flavour from the addition of a few dollops of hazelnut paste, courtesy of Why Nut - who sent me a lovely box of goodies to test out. These nut pastes are wonderful to work with and smell divine, I'm looking forward to developing a few more recipes with them.

The hazelnut sponge is split and filled with whipped Nutella ganache, sandwiched, then topped with un-whipped Nutella ganache (at pouring consistency), sprinkled with flaked almonds. The result is a very delicately flavoured, light, nutty sponge cake. Most of the sweetness comes from the Nutella ganache, the sponge is actually surprisingly subtle and very more-ish :)

I used an electric mixer  and the all-in-one method to make this sponge, if you're making this by hand, it might be easier to start by creaming the butter and caster sugar together, combining the wet ingredients, then sifting in the dry. 


For the sponge cake:
140g slightly salted butter, softened at room temperature
120g caster sugar
150g gluten-free plain flour
50g ground almonds
3tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
3 tsp hazelnut paste (Why Nut)
4tbs milk

For the ganache and top top the cake:
120g Nutella
100ml double cream
20g flaked almonds

Special tools:
A 20cm round cake tin

To make the cake:
1) Line and grease a 20cm cake tin, pre-heat the oven to 170C (fan).

2) Using an electric mixer on a medium setting, mix all of the sponge ingredients together into a smooth batter.

3) Pour the batter into your prepared cake tin. Bang the base of the on your work surface a few times to remove trapped air bubbles.

4) Bake on the middle shelf of your pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until risen and just turning golden. To test if the sponge is done, press down gently in the centre with the pad of your index finger - the compression should spring back up easily.

5) Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool down completely (allow the sponge to cool completely before icing it).

To make the ganache and fill the cake:
1) Put the Nutella into a bowl and set to one side.

2) In a saucepan, gently heat the cream until it reaches boiling point.

3) Immediately pour the cream over the Nutella and leave for one minute.

4) By hand, mix the cream and Nutella together until smooth and evenly combined.

5) Leave to cool down for a few minutes, then set 3tbs of the ganache to one side. Chill the remaining ganache in the fridge for 15 minutes.

6) Remove the chilled ganache from the fridge, it should have started to set a little. Using electric beaters, whisk the shilled ganache until it lightens in colour and increases in volume a little. It should be a nice spreading consistency.

7) Making sure the sponge has cooled completely, Use a cake-wire or serrated knife to split the cake into two layers.

8) Use a palette knife to spread the whipped ganache on top of the lower layer of sponge. Sandwich the cake together.

9) By hand, stir the remaining ganache (which has been kept at room temperature). It will have thickened a little but should still be a smooth pouring / spreading consistency. Tip this ganache onto the top of the cake, spreading it outwards with your (clean) palette knife to cover the entire top of the cake. 

10) Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top and allow the ganache to set - enjoy :)


  1. Hi Emma. Great looking cake and I am eager to have a go when we get back this week. Also really intrigued with the nut pastes you mentioned. Where are these available?

  2. Thanks again for your advice Adriana! The cake lasted very well - so I think your recommendations made a real difference :) You can buy the nut pastes online at