I might not have realized it at the time of my visits, but there have been countries I explored, understood and loved through food. While I don’t have fond memories of Dutch food, some of their sweets became some of my favorites and made me want to go back over and over. Jamaica will always be viewed through its jerk consumed roadside (the very first food trucks!). Los Angeles made me appreciate Mexican food. And France…well, I was never a great fan of the typical French fare until I delved more into the less classical and more peasant regional cuisine but lobster, croissants and crepes always scream Paris to me.
How can you not love crepes? A much better and more refined cousin to the Anglo-Saxon pancake, crepes are more delicate and are the perfect showcase for any type of filling, savory or sweet (a whole lot of Nutella crepes were consumed in my life). So, what is not to love about a crepe cake? I made a lemon crepe layer cake a few Christmases ago, with lemon curd from my tree – delicious but ridiculously buttery. When I saw a chocolate hazelnut recipe posted in the NYT cooking app, I was mainly intrigued because the hazelnuts were in the actual crepe batter and not in the chocolate filling.
As a few readers have requested the recipe of this cake after I posted photos of it, here it is. It seems lengthy but it can be prepared in stages: I made the crepe batter the day before (it is always best to let it sit a few hours anyway) and the chocolate pudding early in the morning and then assembled the whole thing later in the day, after I made the crepes. The most tedious thing is to stand at the stove making all those crepes but, if you have made them before, it will go rather fast. In fact, if you are a pro in the kitchen, don’t even bother with the recipe: use your favorite crepe batter recipe but substitute half the flour with hazelnut flour, make your own chocolate pudding and layer away. Top with whipped cream or with whatever else you like. My cake was consumed over a period of three days and it held up really well in the refrigerator.
FOR THE CREPE BATTER
4 whole eggs
2 C milk (470 ml)
1/2 C heavy cream (118 ml)
1 1/4 C flour (165 g)
1 C hazelnut meal (90 g)
1/4 C sugar (50 g)
pinch of salt
4 T butter, melted (57 g) + more for the pan
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CREAM
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (170 g)
1/3 C sugar (67 g)
1/3 C cornstarch (40 g)
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (25 g)
pinch of salt
2 1/2 C milk (590 ml)
2 T butter (30 g)
2 T brandy
Heavy cream and hazelnut for serving
- Make the crepe batter: whisk eggs, yolks, milk and cream in a bowl. In a bigger bowl, whisk flour, hazelnut meal, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center and pour some of the milk mixture. Gently whisk until you have a smooth batter. Continue adding the milk in such a manner. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 48.
- Prepare the chocolate cream: chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl. In a saucepan, whisk sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt. Add some of the milk and whisk, creating a paste. Gradually add remaining milk and whisk until well combined. Add yolks and melted butter.
Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly . Once it comes to boil whisk for another few minutes and it becomes very thick. Press the hot cream through a sieve over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for a couple of minutes and then stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the brandy. Cool to room temperature , cover with plastic and refrigerate.
- Cook the crepes: Melt a bit of butter in a medium size (about 8”) frying pan or crepe pan and let it get hot. Remove the pan from heat and 1/4 C (about 3 tablespoons) of crepe batter and swirl it around, until it covers the entire surface of the pan. Return the pan to the heat and cook until golden on one side. Use your fingers to lift it and turn it or slide it on a plate (if you can flick it, more power to you). Continue until you have between 15 and 20 crepes. Keep them stacked on a plate.
- Assemble the cake: Lay the first crepe on a round plate and cover with a thin layer of chocolate cream, leaving a small border. Continue until all the crepes are stacked. Whip some cream and spoon it on top. Sprinkle some toasted hazelnuts over the cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.