Paul asked for a torte for his birthday, and because I haven’t baked in a long while, I set out to plan, bake, decorate and present him with a decadent hazelnut chocolate torte.
Now, this isn’t a foodie or baking blog. Mostly it’s a blog about how I cope with all the things that go wrong in normal everyday life and then figure out what I learned from them. So you can expect that I had some challenges creating this beautiful torte along the way, right?
The biggest challenge was not the torte itself but all the other projects I crammed into his birthday weekend. They all required 100% of my time.
A romantic night out. This worked out beautifully because it was the first event of the weekend, on Friday night, and we went out to eat, leaving the mess to someone else.
Final formatting of my new book. Things got a little sticky here. We uploaded the ebook to Amazon, but then the PDF proofs for the print version were fussy and it took two of us—okay, really Paul with me looking over his shoulder—to sort it out.
Creating a handout and video for a class. (Yes, a class I was teaching on his birthday.) Of course, I didn’t start this until 8 p.m. the night before. And, when he suggested that my old MacBook wouldn’t finish until 3 a.m., he took this onto his plate as well.
Normal things of life. Let me now insert multiple rides for our teenage daughter, an early dinner to accommodate our son’s work schedule, website updates for my author website, and my keyboard shooting out random characters.
And the birthday dinner. This all happened before I started making the beef stew and the famed chocolate torte, which all needed to be complete the night before so we could eat it in the short hour we had before he left for another meeting.
Are you tired, yet?
Through each step of these other projects, I walked back and forth past the cream cheese and butter that was softening on the counter for frosting, reminding me of the baking project ahead of me.
Then I fell apart.
A hazelnut chocolate cake does not express love under these conditions. Baking in this state draws out anxiety and rests it right on the shoulders of the object of my affection.
But I wasn’t going to let it. I’ve done that before. This torte needed a happy ending.
So, I set it aside that night. I didn’t make it compete. The butter and cream cheese went back in the refrigerator.
His perfect dinner wasn’t topped off with a perfect torte. But it wasn’t great that he had to leave right away either. So I used that time to my advantage and pulled that cream cheese and butter out as soon as he left. He did finish a very nice birthday with a super good torte.
It’s all about levels, like the layers on this torte. We can give our all—to the highest level—but not to all things, and certainly not simultaneously.
Truthfully, our highest level does not equal love. Chocolate hazelnut torte–on any level–is not love.
Love is what my husband gave me when he rescued my PDF proofs or the uninterrupted quiet time I encouraged him to take beside the fire before he headed out for five more hours of meetings or putting the butter back in the fridge when there just isn’t time or energy to do all you want to do.
So, by all means, take this recipe and bake a chocolate hazelnut torte for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. But please, please don’t forget to add the love.
Without it, something will always be missing.
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground filberts (hazelnuts)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Glaze (see below)
Whipped Chocolate Frosting (see below)
Fresh Berries for garnish
1st – Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and gradually mix into the creamed sugar mixture. (This will look more like cookie dough than a cake.)
2nd – Divide into eight separate pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3rd – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large baking sheet with sides by greasing the bottom, laying wax paper over that and then greasing the wax paper.
4th – One at a time, remove layers from refrigerator. Unwrap from plastic wrap, roll in sugar, and press between waxed paper. (Some of mine were too sticky so I also patted them in flour first.) Roll into an approximately a 6 x 4 inch rectangular.
5th – Lay out on the baking sheet in a four long by two high row. They will be touching, and if they aren’t you can pat them out to fill the whole tray.
6th – Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes, depending on your oven. You do not want them to be brown or crisp, so they are cake-like cookies. Remove from the oven and set the whole pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
7th – Gently loosen the cookies from the edge of the tray and cut marks to evenly divide the pieces. Then lift the waxed paper out of the baking tray and onto a two cooling sheets put together or a very wide one. Gently trim any ridges from the edges of the pieces. Allow to cool completely.
8th – Make the glaze:
1 1/2 – 2 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips (I love Special Dark chips)
2 tablespoons butter
2 – 3 tablespoons milk
Warm milk in a heavy pan on the stove set on low. Add butter, stir until melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until not solid pieces remain. Do not add too much milk. We don’t want this to be a pourable glaze, just a spreadable one.
9th – Now assemble the cookie/cake layers.
10th – Stack layers, one by one, spreading chocolate glaze over each. If a layer seems to be a little too long, go ahead and carefully trim the edges so that they are as even as you can get. Don’t stress about those that don’t create a perfect box shape. The frosting will cover it later.
11th – After all the layers have glaze between them, spread glaze around the full exterior of the torte.
12th – Refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours and make the whipped chocolate frosting.
Whipped Chocolate Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Whip cream and set aside. Beat cream cheese until soft. Mix powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add to cream cheese mixture and blend, gently at first. Spoon some of the whipped cream into the bowl if the frosting is too dry. Then fold most of the remaining whipped cream into the cream cheese and chocolate mixture. I saved some to decorate the top. You can chill the frosting for a bit to make it more firm for piping.
13th – Decorate the rest of the cake. I’m not a cake decorator so many of you can make a much lovelier one, I’m sure. But I piped the whipped chocolate frosting around the bottom and piped plain (sweetened) whipped cream on the top. Then, garnish with berries of your choice. I think raspberries or blackberries go best with this flavor combination.