Chocolate Hazelnut Dinosaur Cake


If you were to ask Erlend, my boyfriend, he’d probably tell you that dating a food blogger isn’t easy. There are always mountains upon mountains of dishes, frequent unexpected runs to the supermarket to pick up forgotten ingredients, weeks of eating variations of the same thing until the recipe is declared just right, and of course, the many, many uncomfortable minutes waiting to eat hangrily hungrily while the food is being styled and photographed. Not to mention that sweets and desserts start to get old after a while, especially if there’s always something lying around.


There are perks too though. We arrived back from Europe the day before the 4th of July weekend, which also happened to be Erlend’s birthday weekend. Erlend had no expectations of a big celebration — we were jetlagged and exhausted, and I was getting that glum, post-vacation depression that comes from the knowledge that I was heading back to work on Monday. We agreed to skip the grilling, the fireworks, and birthday celebrations until next weekend, instead opting for cheap Chinese in the neighborhood to mark the occasion in a low-key way.

But I had a surprise for Erlend. The weekend before we headed out to Europe, I’d baked a chocolate hazelnut cake (a cake that he’s been requesting I make for years now), wrapped it carefully in several layers of plastic wrap, and stuck it in the freezer without his knowledge. Yesterday morning, with jetlag on my side, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and quietly, stealthily whipped up the accompanying Nutella buttercream frosting and the marzipan dinosaurs, and stuck the entire thing back in the freezer unceremoniously. I crawled back to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.


Later that morning, as Erlend opened the freezer to dig out his coffee beans, he was greeted by the cheery, tricerotopped cake. “What’s this?”

“Surprise!” I said. “You didn’t think I’d really let you have a birthday without making you a cake, did you?”

Thus, one of the perks of dating a food blogger: no matter how exhausted we are or inconvenient it is, we’ll always ensure that there’s never a birthday that goes by without homemade cake.

But then again, after I surprised him with the cake, I ordered him to pose for pictures with the cake in my apron (more on that later!) for about half an hour before we actually cut into the damn thing and ate it.

But shhh, never mind that. Because really, what I’m trying to say is this:

Happy Birthday, Erlend! Thanks for being alive another year to help with the dishes, photos, and ingredient runs. I say that jokingly, but I mean it, really — I know I’m a pain in the ass sometimes. But having you in my life has made things easier and better, and for that, I’ll gladly make you a cake everyday.


Before I leave you with the recipe, let’s circle back to my earlier note about the apron. Erlend is graciously modeling my much-beloved apron from the Portland Apron Company (of which you can see a full picture of on my Instagram, as well as in the site listing). One of my favorite things about Portland, my former home, is the abundance of local, high-quality, handcrafted goods available there from pioneering, entrepreneurial creative folk. Portland Apron Company is no exception — all Portland Apron Company aprons are designed and are made-to-order by one incredibly talented lady, Erika Kelly. Her aprons (made of all-organic material, nonetheless) stand within the ranks of designer aprons like Hedley & Bennett, Fog Linen, and all others mentioned in this New York Times article. Aprons. They're hot right now.

As a special treat, all Hummingbird High readers will get free shipping on any order from Portland Apron Company shipped within the USA throughout the month of July. Just use the code: Hummingbird


Some baker's notes:
  • Hazelnut meal is available online (I like the Bob's Red Mill variety), or, you can make your own! Simply run 1 cup raw hazelnuts in a food processor and process until they reach a texture similar to cornmeal; be careful and watch the hazelnuts to make sure you don't over process them, or you might end up with hazelnut butter. If you're having trouble finding hazelnut meal, you can also just substitute the amount needed with all-purpose flour to make a plain old (but still perfectly delicious) chocolate cake.

  • A note on freezing cakes — cakes freeze really well, and can keep in the freezer for an incredibly long time if packed properly (though in my personal opinion, they tend to lose their best flavor and texture around the one month mark). To freeze a cake, bake it, cool it fully, and wrap it in several layers (at least 2) of plastic wrap to make sure that every surface is covered. Once the cakes have been covered, add a final layer of aluminum foil wrap to prevent freezer burn and any freezer smells from leeching into the cake. And there's no need to defrost the layers before lathering on the frosting — cakes are actually easier to frost when they're cold as the freezing process helps keeps the crumbs on the cake. After frosting, simply keep the cake at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

PS — dinosaur cakes are really hot right now (because dinosaurs are awesome, duh). For some of my other favorite dinosaur cakes around the internet, check out my homegirls: Katie and her Chocolate Chips Ahoy Dinosaur Cake, Steph and her Classic Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Molly and her Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake. Let me know if I missed any other dinosaur cakes in the comments below!


Chocolate Hazelnut Dinosaur Cake
(cake recipe adapted from my favorite chocolate cake recipe)

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake:
(makes one 8-inch, 2-layer cake)
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed, strong hot coffee

For the Nutella Buttercream Frosting and Marzipan Dinosaurs:
(makes around 4 cups, enough for 1 cake)
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 4 ounces 70% cacao chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 ounces marzipan
  • food coloring of your choice
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Recipe

For the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Prepare two 8 inch round cake pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with parchment paper circles. Spray the top of each parchment circle and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup hazelnut meal, 2 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.

  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup oil, 2 large eggs, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Whisk together gently until just combined. 

  4. With the mixer on its lowest speed, slowly add the wet ingredients (from the 3rd step) to the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step). Add 1 cup hot coffee. Continue stirring on low speed until just combined, before stopping the mixer and using a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix into the batter. The batter will seem really liquidy, but this is normal — don't panic and trust the recipe!

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out with a few crumbs and the tops of each cake bounce with a spongelike texture when poked gently with your finger. When the cakes are ready, remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes, before turning out to cool. Remove parchment paper and allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

For the Nutella Buttercream Frosting:
  1. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium-high speed for a minimum of 5 minutes — at the end of the beating period, the butter will have lightened in color and have a fluffy texture.

  2. With the mixture still on medium-high speed, add 3/4 cup Nutella all at once and continue beating for another 2 minutes. 

  3. After 2 minutes, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl and the paddle. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and slowly drizzle in 4 ounces melted chocolate.

  4. Once the melted chocolate has been fully incorporated, turn the mixer speed down to its lowest setting. Add 3 cups confectioners' sugar one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture has lightened up considerably. Once the confectioners sugar has been completely added, turn the mixer speed back up to medium-high and drizzle in 3 tablespoons whole milk. Continue beating for another minute until creamy and spreadable.

For the Marzipan Dinosaurs:
  1. Use your hands to knead a couple drops of yellow food coloring into 2 ounces marzipan until the color has fully incorporated throughout the marzipan. 

  2. Sandwich the colored marzipan between two layers of wax paper, and use a rolling pin to roll out the marzipan to a rectangle around a 1/8-inch thick. Use your dinosaur cookie cutter to cut out dinosaur shapes from the rolled out marzipan, and press the cutouts gently on to the cake.
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52 comments

  1. omg, this is the best cake I've ever seen in my life. Happy happy birthday to Erlend!

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  2. This cake is everything. That frosting looks insanely good, and it's so perfectly frosted onto the cake, teach me your ways. I love how you gave those triceratops eyes too, so cute. And of course happy belated birthday to Erlend!

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  3. Such a cute cake xxx

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  4. I love using hazelnut meal! And I'm stoked about the addition of the coffee! I just might have to try this one, but I'll have to wait until I'm with other chocolate lovers, so I don't eat the whole thing myself! And the decoration is just so cute :-)

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  5. Hhaha, the eyes are actually mini chocolate chips!

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  6. Hazelnut meal is one of my favorite ingredients — if only it wasn't so damn expensive!

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  7. Well aren't you the sweetest! You can make this cake for me for my birthday any time you want. Chocolate and hazelnut are my fav (oh heeeyyyy Nutella), so this sounds like absolute perfection to me. The dinosaur touch just makes it even better. On another note: Robert can totally relate to the "being with a food blogger" thing. He gets mad at me if I bake too often .... And sometimes he asks what's for dinner and I'm like ... (I dunno but I'm testing some waffles later, so .....) Hehe! But they really live the life, even though we're a pain in the ass and the kitchen is always a disaster. But there are cookies!

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  8. eeeee!!!! dinos for the win!!!!!!!!! i love this cake, michelle!!! i want to dig right in. perfect for a monday :)

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  9. The dinosaurs just make me smile. And this post! I laughed out loud when I read about the "waiting hangrily" part, it's so so true. This cake looks so perfect.

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  10. This looks fantastic! Happy birthday to E!!!

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  11. This cake is the cutest, Michelle... those dinosaurs!! Happy birthday to Erlend! <3

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  12. Thanks Molly! Definitely am inspired by all your marzipan decorations. xoxo

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  13. Thanks Meredith! Let's catch up soon — I feel like we haven't gchatted in ages!

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  14. June 21!!! Just missed it. I'll expect one next year ;-) ;-)

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  15. "If you were to ask Erlend, my boyfriend, he’d probably tell you that dating a food blogger isn’t easy. There are always mountains upon mountains of dishes, frequent unexpected runs to the supermarket to pick up forgotten ingredients, weeks of eating variations of the same thing until the recipe is declared just right, and of course, the many, many uncomfortable minutes waiting to eat hangrilyhungrily while the food is being styled and photographed. Not to mention that sweets and desserts start to get old after a while, especially if there’s always something lying around."

    wait yes this is so . so. true!!

    love this cake. it looks amazing! and the dinosaurs are so cute

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  16. you are the sweetest!! i love celebrating birthdays and i love that you didn't let some jet lag and travel plans get in the way!! super cute cake. totally impressed by your 4:30am decorating skills. xo

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  17. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fat-diminisher-system-pdf-review-meghan-g

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  18. years of patience and half hour of apron modeling seems to be a small price to pay for such a cute and delicious cake!

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  19. Thanks Karishma! Glad you can relate to my words :-)

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  20. Thanks Lynsey! At first, I was actually a little bit bummed that I didn't perfectly smooth out the top of the cake (jetlag was starting to weigh me down at that point), but I kinda like the rustic edge now!

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  21. My congrats and best wishes to Erland!))

    We, food bloggers, are all pretty the same. Because whatever the occasion is, there always must be a homemade cake.! Just because)!

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  22. Aw such a cute story about you hiding the cake and sneakily putting on the finishing touches on the middle of the night. Happy birthday Erland! The styling with all the lil dinosaurs is beyond too :D

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  23. You are so adorable, Michelle! I love this story and the fact that you got up at 4:30 to put the cake together. So cute. Happy birthday Erlend!!!

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  24. Thanks Pech! I miss you guys so much; I've been following along all your culinary and drinking adventures on Instagram and Twitter and I've been so jealous. So many great new places to try the next time I'm in PDX!

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  25. Thanks Erin! I'd make you a birthday cake at 4:30AM too ;-)

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  26. What a cute cake!!! Omg, I can't hold my smile. Happy happy Erlend :)

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  27. You're a good girlfriend, planning and waking up in the morning making birthday cakes! Also, those flavors are my favorite. It is a cute cake!!! (I'm also one of the few people that really loves to eat marzipan as is).

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  28. I love the sneaky cake baking!! hehe I make my boyfriend dino cakes every year (2 so far) and gram them ;) https://instagram.com/p/3gkPoygGYS/ https://instagram.com/p/n8TUglAGYU/

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  29. OMG Izy I love these, they are so cute!!! Especially that "UR OLD" one, lol!

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  30. Thanks Katie!!! When I saw your cake earlier I was like, GASP. WE REALLY ARE DESSERT SOULMATES!

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  31. Thanks Nik!!! Not quite as classy as your coconut cake, but when its your birthday, I'll make sure you to surprise you with one. Unless I already ruined the surprise just now. Oh wait.

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  32. So, I'm sooo late and I feel so bad for missing this cause I really would have loved for you to pass on my bday wishes to the bf sooner but HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the man behind HH!!! Dinosaur cakes are totally awesome but not as awesome as super wonderful gfs who frost and assemble surprise bday cakes while jetlagged!

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  33. It's never too late to say Happy Birthday! Will pass it along to Erlend ;-)


    Also, you are the sweetest <3

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  34. This is too damn cute. Seriously. UGH. Also, go you for getting up to ice that cake! Honestly that never would have happened in this home. Sleep is bae. Cake comes after LOL

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  35. Our Food StoriesJuly 11, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    Ohhh what a cute birthday-surprise!! And the cake looks amazing!! I bet it was so delicious <3

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  36. what an insanely darkly chocolate cake - yum! my hubby's fave is chocolate hazelnut too. you are a very nice girlfriend, hehe! digging that marzipan dino too - "dinosaurs are so hot right now!" haha love it. xo

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  37. hahaha, sleep is bae. i love it!!!! maybe the priorities are: sleep, cake, biceps in that order, yes?

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  38. Dinosaurs are hot right now! I'm waiting for your version to blow us all out the water ;-)

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  39. Hahaha! That sounds like some kind of twisted extreme muscle gain plan. SLEEP, CAKE, LIFT, REPEAT FOR GAINZ, BRO. Lolololol

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  40. I know I'm *such* a sap, but this actually made me tear up—what a sweet, loving surprise. Adore. He's a lucky gent! And the cake is gorgeous, of course.

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