The marriage of hazelnut and chocolate has to be one of, if not the best inventions. The Italians call it gianduia and in French, chocolat noisette. And the good people at Nutella have made it into a sweet global empire with pop-up Nutella bars now, literally spreading hazelnutty chocolatey deliciousness around the world. As a child, Nutella was a staple on toast, sandwiched between plain bread, or just out of the jar with a spoon. OR….take a deep breath…spread on a slice of toasted Panettone. This probably explains why I wore clothes from the husky section at Zellers for many years.
Now, while it’s perfectly fine on its own, adding bananas to the mix is next level. I don’t know how or why but there’s just something about it that makes everything right in the world. I was reminded of this a few months ago, on a long overdue visit with one of my best friends in Kansas City. On my last day we had a breakfast date with Jonathan’s three wonderful kids at a local joint where Tula, the youngest, ordered a stack of pancakes smothered with a generous layer of Nutella, sliced bananas and whipped cream. She’s 8, super smart, loves to read and knows how to do breakfast right, let me tell you.
As I looked down at the responsible egg white omelets with dry toast Jonathan and I had ordered, and back at Tula who was tucking into her heavenly pancakes with carefree abandon, the smile on her face said it all. It was unfiltered, pure joy!
That reaction to food is everything to me and sparked this cake idea bringing the flavours of chocolate, hazelnut and banana together – four layers of banana bread, doctored up with homemade Nutella that’s ridiculously easy to make, and dangerously easy to eat. Trust.
While it’s not exactly a holiday recipe, I thought it was perfect for this time of year. It would be fab for a New Year’s party, but you could also channel Tula and have it for breakfast. That’s what I’m planning to do.
Tula, this one’s for you!
- 3 – 4 very ripe large bananas
- 6 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- Garnish: 4 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, a handful of banana chips and toasted whole hazelnuts
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (aka homemade Nutella)
- 1 cup smooth hazelnut butter
- 1/3 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tbsp hazelnut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch salt
Banana Cake (you’ll need 2 of these cakes for the recipe)
- Preheat oven to 325 F
- Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake tin using 1 tbsp of the measured flour
- Sift the remaining dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Whisk in the sugars, melted butter, vanilla and egg until well combined
- Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined – overmixing will give you an uneven or tough cake
- Bake 65 – 70 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
- Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the cake tin and cool at least 2 hours on a wire rack
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
- Before measuring the hazelnut butter, stir well if the oil and solids have separated
- Sift the cocoa powder, salt and confectioners’ sugar together in a bowl
- In a large bowl, stir the cocoa sugar mixture into the hazelnut butter using a wooden spoon, alternating with 1 tablespoon of hazelnut oil at a time
- Mix vigorously until smooth
NOTE: this will take some serious elbow grease as the mixture is really thick. If you’re not up for the bicep workout, blend everything together in a food processor for 1 – 2 minutes until smooth
- Slice the crown off both cakes and set aside (a little snack for later). You don’t really have to do this step, but it makes for a nicer presentation when each layer is perfectly flat
- Using a serrated knife, slice each cake into two layers. Choose the best looking bottom layer and invert it – this will become the top layer with a smooth surface
- Divide the chocolate hazelnut spread evenly across the 3 layers (about ½ cup per layer). Using an offset spatula, smooth out the frosting to the edges
- Place the bottom cake layer on a cake board or serving plate and stack the remaining 2 frosted layers on top of each other. The cakes should be firm enough to lift easily with your hands but if not, use a spatula for extra support
- Now take the final unfrosted layer and place it cut side down
- The cake can be assembled to this point and stored covered in the fridge for 1 – 2 days, wrapped well in plastic wrap.
- Before serving, sift 4 – 5 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar over the top of the cake and garnish with a few banana chips and toasted whole hazelnuts. Don’t do this too far in advance or the sugar will disappear as it soaks into the cake