For Becca’s birthday I made her something that I knew she would love. I’ve been planning it for awhile, knowing that her birthday coincided with her first day of classes (she’s starting school to become an American Sign Language interpreter!). She wanted me to make her something that she could take with her, to celebrate her birthday with her new classmates. Since she has to commute, she needed something easy to pack and carry, so it was easy to decide to make sandwich cookies. But, you can’t have a birthday without a birthday cake, and I made her a cake to match her cookies. I know that Becca loves nuts, especially hazelnuts, so that had to be included in the recipes. The cake I made had three layers of Vanilla Sponge Cake, with a rich Hazelnut Creme in between each layer. Mmm. And then the whole cake was smothered in vegan Nutella Buttercream Frosting.
I sandwiched together the Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies with a dark vegan Nutella cream in the middle. Because she’s studying ASL, I made them in the shape of hands! Aren’t they cute? I put some of them around the outside of her cake for extra decoration, and to unify the two birthday desserts.
I’ve had a request for the Nutella Cake recipe, so I’m going to do my best to post it here. Unfortunately, the vegan nutella itself was not homemade, so I can’t share a brilliant recipe for that with you. In Holland, they have vegan nutella (not the brand name variety) stocked in all grocery stores. When I went there this summer, I couldn’t resist bringing back a few jars with me. I’ve already nearly run out – I wish I could just go back and get some more but the fact that I just started graduate school means that I just don’t have the time (or the money, let’s be honest). If you don’t have the luck to have been in Holland recently, you can find a recipe for vegan nutella here, it looks delicious!
The cake itself was a vanilla Sponge Cake from Hannah Kaminsky‘s cookbook My Sweet Vegan.* She uses it as a base for her Green Tea Tiramisu. I just doubled the recipe for cake batter and baked it in three 9-inch round pans. It is a delicious recipe; a dense (but not heavy) golden cake that certainly holds it’s own – it’s sweet and bright flavor makes it easy to adapt since it pretty much supports any flavor you want it to. I’d say it actually brings out more complex flavors in whatever you combine it with. It would be great with a light fruit sauce or jam spread on it, but since this was going to be a birthday cake, I had to make it rich! I made a Hazelnut Creme to go in between the layers, and then made a more traditional vegan Buttercream that I then added the vegan nutella to. The recipes for the spreads are below. If you can’t find hazelnut butter in your grocery store, you can buy regular hazelnuts or filburts and roast them in your oven till they are lightly toasted. Grind them in a food processor until they reach a smooth peanut butter consistency.
*If you don’t have Hannah’s cookbook, you could use your favorite golden vanilla cake recipe and it would be just fine. And I stress just fine. Your cake will still be delicious and hazelnutty and totally satisfying! But, if you want a drop-dead-perfect birthday-celebratory cake, go out and buy Hannah’s cookbook because this cake is GREAT and so is the whole book! You’ll be finding excuses to bake her desserts all the time!
Hazelnut Creme Ingredients:
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup hazelnut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tblsp. plain unsweetened almond milk (or a little more)
Cream Earth Balance with electric beaters in a medium sized bowl. Add the hazelnut butter and combine thoroughly. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, beating in between additions until fluffy. Add the almond milk very slowly while continuing to beat with electric beaters, until creme has reached a spreadable consistency.
Vegan Nutella Buttercream Frosting:
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/4 cup vegan shortening (I use Earth Balance brand)
3/4-1 cup vegan nutella/chocolate-hazelnut spread (to taste)
1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 Tblsp. plain unsweetened almond milk
Cream Earth Balance and shortening with electric beaters in a medium sized bowl. Add the nutella and continue beating. Add the confectioner’s sugar and flour, and beat until fluffy. Add the almond milk and combine thoroughly. Spread on top of cooled stacked cakes.