Light Hazelnut Cake with Flecks of Bittersweet Chocolate (gluten-free or not)

Light Hazelnut Cake with Flecks of Bittersweet Chocolate (gluten-free or not) First of all, I am aware that my blog gives the impression that I am eating nothing but cakes and cookies with the occasional serving of Indian food lately. Not true!  I have just been making a lot of food that I have already blogged about.  I’ve been eating…

Okay, I just didn’t want any of my relatives who read Big Sis Little Dish to be worried about my health.

This was one of my very favourite cakes to bake at the time that I found out that I had to give up gluten.  At the time I was loving the wonderful book Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri.  The Capriccio Alle Nocciole (Hazelnut Cake from Ticino) was my favourite.  I made it for the first time when my friend, Sxip Shirey, brought me fresh hazelnuts from his parents’ farm in Ohio.  That first cake was particularly good!

This was the first cake that I ever made that required that you separate the  eggs and whipped the egg whites.  At the time, it seemed very fancy and it produced a wonderful light crumb.  Now, I do that all the time when I make Buckwheat Hazelnut FinanciersPistachio Financiers or Black Sesame Lemon Financiers.  Unlike a financier though, this cake calls for creaming rather than melting the butter and makes use of the egg yolks.

This cake is rich and not too sweet.  The crumb itself has a very clean flavour that allows the subtle flecks of hazelnut and semi-sweet chocolate to play on your palate.  I love how understated the chocolate is in this cake. A little bit of high quality chocolate goes a long way for me.  It reminds me of my favourite ice cream flavour, vanilla swiss almond (vanilla ice cream studded with chocolate covered almonds).

It is not so easy to achieve delicate crumb and neutral flavour with gluten-free flours, so I have put of trying to make a gluten-free version for years.  I am pleased to say that it turned out very successfully!  I used equal parts white rice flour, brown rice flour, mochi rice flour and tapioca starch.  I used the finest grind of rice flours that I could find.  Some brands, of brown rice flour in particular, have big old chunks of rice in them (more like a meal than a flour).  That won’t work for this recipe.  When I get a batch of flour like that, I sift out the big chunks with a fine sieve.  I am contemplating buying this little grain mill so that I can make my own flour.  Yeah,  I really want one.

Even if you are using wheat flour, this cake is delicate and a bit tricky to unmold.  If it falls apart just serve it broken in bowls topped with slightly sweetened whipped cream.  It is amazing!  If you want to make this cake with gluten just use 2 cups of all-purpose flour in place of all the rice flours and tapioca starch.

Light Hazelnut Cake with Flecks of Bittersweet Chocolate (gluten-free or not)


adapted from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri

  • 1/2 cup ground unblanched hazelnuts or breadcrumbs for the pan
  • a couple of tablespoons of softened butter for the pan
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I use salted butter sometimes and it’s still good)
  • 12 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated (I use 4 medium eggs sometimes and it’s still good)
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (sifted it if it is not fine enough)
  • 1/2 cup mochi flour (also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice flour, even though it is actually gluten-fee)
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup (4 oz) ground unblanched hazelnuts (you can use store bought hazelnut meal, but I prefer to grind them fresh)
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate coarsely ground (bittersweet chocolate is 60 % cacao and that percentage is best)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • confectioners sugar for serving (optional)
  • Cream  whipped with a bit of sugar and vanilla for topping (optional)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it at 350 degrees.  Generously butter a tube or Bundt pan, taking care to get every nook an cranny.  Dust the pan thoroughly with ground hazelnuts or breadcrumbs.
  2. Cream the butter with 6 tablespoons of sugar until it is soft and light.  If you have a mixer this will take 5 minutes on medium speed.  If you don’t have a mixer just think about how great a workout your arms are getting or rope in a friend or lover to help.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until smooth before adding the next one.
  4. In another bowl stir together  the white rice flour, brown rice flour, mochi flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, ground hazelnuts and grated bittersweet chocolate.
  5. Add half of the dry mixture to the wet and mix until just incorporated.
  6. Beat in the milk.
  7. Add the rest of the dry mixture and beat until just combined.
  8. In another clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they are white, opaque and starting to hold their shape.  Continue whipping as you gradually add the remaining 6 Tablespoons in a steady stream.  The egg whites will deflate a bit but keep whipping them until the egg whites hold a soft peak again.
  9. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it,  then gently fold in the rest of the whites.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.  Test the cake with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.  If not give the cake another 5-10 minutes.
  11. Cool the cake in its pan for five minutes, then unmold it to finish cooling.  This can be tricky.  If it breaks, just serve the cake in bowls with whipped cream on top!  If it unmolds well, it looks nice to dust the top with powdered sugar.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Erin,

    I can’t wait to make this cake ~ it sounds lovely with the combination of choc. & hazlenuts!

    Thank you for perfecting it GF also!

    Ciao & Happy Baking Everyone!

    1. Let me know how it turns out for you!


  2. Darya says:

    Oh this sounds lovely. I love hazelnuts and the use of rice flours does make it sound very light! And of course hazelnuts and chocolate are a match made in heaven. That cauliflower gratin looks amazing too!

  3. chef mimi says:

    This looks beautiful! I’m sure the taste is fabulous.

  4. Alene says:

    This is lovely! I made it this afternoon. I love that it has a beautiful crumb inside and a crunchy outside. I can’t stop eating it! It did take me awhile to prepare though. Grating the chocolate took awhile. Got any tricks for that? I had decided that I wouldn’t make it again because of how long it took me to make it. But, now that I’ve tasted it, I’ve changed my mind! Thank you for a delicious recipe.

    1. The grating is totally time consuming and totally worth it. I agree. I also don’t make it as often as I might because it takes so long. I only make it for people who I REALLY love! I’m so happy that you persevered and enjoyed it!

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