This delicious “cheesecake cake” is made with moist and tender chocolate-hazelnut velvet cake layers made flavorful with the addition of hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico) and hazelnut oil or syrup enveloping a heavenly Nutella cheesecake layer with a mousse-like “light as a cloud” texture. My Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream was a perfect match to frost both cheesecake and this layer cake. It’s especially silky and light while melting on the tongue.
To contrast, these soft textures, a bit of crunch comes into play as options for encrusting the sides of the cake with chopped blanched and toasted hazelnuts and decorating with Ferrero Rocher chocolate-hazelnut candies on top. If you don’t have all of the above-stated ingredients you can make your own similar version of the cake – and that’s make this cake so special – everything is permitted!
For the Nutella Cheesecake Layer:
- 2 (8-ounce) packages (450 grams) cream cheese, such as Philadelphia, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (148 grams) Nutella Hazelnut Spread
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (mine were 108 grams total w/o shells), at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (80 grams) dairy sour cream
- 5 ounces (140 grams) bittersweet chocolate (75% cocoa), melted and cooled
- Butter for greasing nonstick spring form pan
For the Chocolate-Hazelnut Velvet Cake Layers:
- 1¾ cups (218 grams) all-purpose flour, spooned into cup and leveled off, plus additional for dusting cake pans
- 1¾ cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (60 grams) sifted unsweetened, organic cocoa (not Dutch processed)
- 1½ teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons (7 grams) baking soda
- 1¼ teaspoons (6 grams) kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon sea salt or table salt)
- ½ cup (120 ml) hazelnut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 cup (240 ml) organic buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- ½ cup (120 ml) Hazelnut Liqueur (such as Frangelico) or hazelnut syrup
- 1½ teaspoons (about 2 grams) instant espresso granules
- Butter, shortening or favorite cooking oil, for greasing cake pans
Note: If using alcohol or hazelnut syrup is not desired, omit and increase water to 1 cup and increase granulated sugar to 2 cups.
For the Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- 1 to 1½ recipes Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream – here you can find the recipe: LINK
For the Cake Adornments:
- 1¼ cups (140 grams) finely chopped blanched & toasted hazelnuts, for top & sides of cake
- 10 to 12 chocolate-hazelnut candies, for top of cake ( I used Ferrero Rocher for this recipe)
Prepare the Nutella Cheesecake Layer:
- Arrange oven racks to lower and middle positions and preheat oven to 325ºF/ 170ºC/ Gas Mark 3.
- Place a 9×13-inch baking dish or pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill it halfway with water. The middle rack should be just above the pan of water which will provide added moisture to help prevent the cheesecake from cracking during baking. Generously grease springform pan with butter and set aside.
- Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, Nutella, and vanilla until creamy.
- Gradually add sugar and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the sour cream and melted chocolate; mix until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape and pour batter into prepared pan. Place springform pan on middle rack in preheated oven above the pan of water.
- Bake in preheated oven until cheesecake is just set in center and no longer jiggles, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Remove cheesecake from oven and place on wire cooling rack. Immediately, run thin metal icing spatula around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake from sides of the pan.
- This will prevent any surface cracking as the cheesecake cools and contracts. Allow cheesecake to cool completely, at least 1 hour.
- Once the cheesecake has cooled, place it (while still in the springform pan) into the freezer, covered with plastic wrap. Let the cheesecake freeze completely, about 4 to 5 hours or overnight.
Prepare the Chocolate-Hazelnut Velvet Cake Layers:
- Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350ºF/ 180ºC/ Gas Mark 4. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter, shortening or oil.
- Line bottoms with parchment or wax paper circles. Grease paper linings and dust lined pans with flour, tapping out the excess. Prepare the pans with insulated cake strips per manufacturer’s directions and set aside.
- Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt on low speed (stir) until well combined and aerated about 1 minute.
- Add oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla; mix on low speed (stir), scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Beat on medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Bring water and hazelnut liqueur or hazelnut syrup to a boil in heatproof glass liquid measuring cup in the microwave. Immediately, add espresso granules and stir until dissolved.
- Carefully add boiling water mixture into batter on low speed (stir) and mix until well combined. The batter will be very thin. Using a rubber spatula, scrape and pour batter into prepared pans dividing evenly (about 2¾ cups of batter per cake pan). Smooth tops evenly with rubber spatula.
- Bake in the center of preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
- Run thin metal spatula around edges of each cake to loosen, then invert onto wire rack and peel away parchment or wax paper. Turn right side up onto wire racks (using an additional rack to flip); cool completely.
Assemble and Ice the Cake:
- Place one cake layer onto serving plate, platter or cake pedestal or stand in the center. With an icing spatula, spread about 3 tablespoons buttercream evenly over top of cake. (If preparing variation for Nutella Crunch Cheesecake Cake, spread 6 tablespoons buttercream evenly over top of cake.
- Sprinkle with half the Ferrero Rocher Crunch (or other similar candies) then spread with a few additional tablespoons of buttercream to cover, about 4 to 6 tablespoons. Repeat this step before placing top cake layer on top of cheesecake layer.)
- Remove cheesecake layer from the freezer. Loosen cheesecake from sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold cheesecake by removing sides of the pan.
- Carefully, slide a hot knife (warmed under hot running water and wiped dry) under the cheesecake, and slide a knife around the circumference, to release it from the bottom of springform pan. (I used my chef’s knife for this task. However, a long serrated knife will work as well. Be careful!)
- If necessary, trim cheesecake to match the size of the cake layers. This is done by measuring the cheesecake layer against the cake layers on a cutting board. (I did this by using a sheet of wax paper between the cheesecake layer and the remaining cake layer on cutting board.)
- If the cheesecake layer is slightly larger in circumference, use a sharp knife to carefully shave away some of the outer edges of the frozen cheesecake to match the outer edges of the cakes until all sides are even or flush. (When trimming the cheesecake layer, I lifted the wax paper upward to take a peek and then sliced the cheesecake using my chef’s knife.)
- Place cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Spread 3 tablespoons buttercream over the top of cheesecake. Place second cake layer on top of the cheesecake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake neatly and evenly.
- You may do a crumb coat and then chill the cake for 30 to 45 minutes before completing the icing if desired. However, if decorating the sides of the cake with nuts, you can skip the crumb coat because the nuts will hide any crumbs showing.
To Decorate the Cake:
- If decorating the cake, gently press chopped blanched and toasted hazelnuts onto sides of cake. This is easy to do if the cake layers are assembled onto a cardboard cake round. Simply hold and balance the cake on the cake round in one hand and use the free hand to press the nuts into the sides of the cake. Use a sheet of parchment or wax paper, or even a sheet pan, to catch the excess.
- If not using a cardboard cake round to hold the cake and press nuts into sides of cake, it is still easy to do. Simply line your cake plate or pedestal with four 4- to 5-inch wide strips of wax paper and use hand to press nuts onto sides of cake.
- The wax paper strips will catch the nuts that fall away. Turn the cake as you work (a cake turntable is helpful, but not necessary) all the way around. Once finished, scoop away the fallen nuts with a spoon and pull the wax paper sheets away leaving a clean cake plate or pedestal.
- Pipe a simple or fancy border with your favorite tip (I used a no. 21-star tip) around the perimeter of the top layer. If desired, pipe 10 to 12 small rosettes around the inside of the piped border, evenly spaced apart, and place a Ferrero Rocher chocolate-hazelnut candy on top of each.
To Store the Cake:
- Keep cake covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.
To Slice and Serve the Cake:
- Slice the chilled cake with a thin knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe knife clean after each cut.
- Use a cake server to transfer slices of cake to dessert plates. Serve immediately.
If you will be making Chocolate Nutella Cheesecake Cake, 1 recipe of Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream will be enough to frost and fill the cake as well as pipe the border.
However, if you will be making the variation for Nutella Crunch Cheesecake Cake, as well as top the cake with piped rosettes to serve as bases for the Ferrero Rocher chocolate-hazelnut candies, you will need 1½ recipes of Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream.
To contrast with a slightly darker buttercream for piping, with remaining buttercream add 1 to 2 teaspoons strained (sifted) unsweetened cocoa.
For Nutella Crunch Cheesecake Cake, create the Ferrero Rocher®Crunch by chopping 12 Ferrero Rocher chocolate-hazelnut candies to sprinkle between cake layers and buttercream frosting.
Serve this cake the same day or next day as the crunch of the candies will soften over time due to the moisture in the buttercream frosting. For this cake, you will need 1½ recipes of Chocolate-Nutella Cream Cheese Buttercream.
Cake may be made one day in advance. Wrap each layer in plastic food wrap and keep at room temperature.
Prepare cheesecake layer on the day or night before the cake layers. This will make for less time in the kitchen the day you bake and assemble the cake.
When measuring all-purpose flour for this recipe, aerate your flour by stirring it then spoon flour into the cup before leveling off with a thin metal icing spatula or straight edge of a knife. This way, you should get approximately 124 grams of flour per cup measure, or 218 grams of flour for the cake layers.
After frosting the layered cake it is best to chill it until firm, about 1½ to 2 hours. Chilling, before slicing the cake, will yield neater cake slices for a better-plated presentation.
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