Latvia is having a birthday next week, and I cannot think of many other occasions that could warrant making a lavish cake with delicate hazelnut meringue and rich chocolate cream. Called “Cielaviņa” (“Wagtail”) in Latvia, it has been one of the most popular cakes on offer since 1970s. As much as I would like the convenience of buying this cake in a bakery here in Australia, homemade cake takes out its industrial counterpart in one punch.
Instructions for the cake may seem a bit daunting, but it is not that hard to make and assemble the cake. I have simplified the assembly, as I prefer naked cakes, but feel free to cover the sides of the cake with chocolate cream, nuts and chopped chocolate biscuits and add chocolate cream roses on top (like this). A bit of imagination and practice is all you need.
A few notes on the recipe:
- The cake is at its best, if made a couple of days prior to consumption. I usually make the cake on the evening of the Day, assemble it on the morning of Day 2, and eat it on Day 3.
- The cake can be made with peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts or pistachios.
- To bring more flavour, serve the cake at room temperature, rather directly from the fridge.
- If you need more chocolate cream to decorate the cake, you can make the cream by omitting the eggs. The cream won’t be as smooth and creamy, but it still will be easy to spread and pipe.
Hazelnut meringue chocolate cake
For the meringues
- 1 1/4 cups nuts
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 3/4 cups caster sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
For the cream
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- 6 egg yolks
- 400 g unsalted, softened butter
- 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 150 g condensed milk
- 3 tbsp rum (optional)
For the ganache
- 150 g dark chocolate
- 6 tbsp cream
To make meringues
- Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Draw a circle of the size of the cake (usually 26cm diameter) on the baking paper. You will need three baking trays in total (or one large tray, depending on the size of the oven and cake).
- Roughly chop the nuts in food processor. Place the nuts on a pan and roast for couple minutes. Remove nuts from the pan and cool them completely.
- Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer (or large bowl if using a hand-held beater), and beat on low speed, until the eggs are foamy. Increase speed to high for 2-3 minutes or until soft peaks form.
- Add the sugar, a third at a time, and continue to beat on high for 2-3 minutes. By this stage the mixture should be stiff and glossy.
- Sift the flour; fold the flour and nuts into the meringue mixture.
- Split the mixture in 3 even parts. Place each part in the middle of the circle drawn on the baking paper. Even out the edges with a spatula or butter knife.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 120C (250F). Place the baking tray in the oven and bake meringue for 1 hour.
- When all meringues have baked, place them back in the oven (still warm, but turned off) to dry out overnight or for 7-8 hours.
For the cream
- Pour the water in a small pot and add the sugar. Bring tothe boil and simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Place egg yolks in a bowl and whisk together with the hot sugar syrup. While whisking, add softened butter, sifted cocoa powder and gradually add the condensed milk. Let the filling cool completely.
For the ganache
- Combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over asaucepan of simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon until smooth. Remove bowlfrom heat. Set aside at room temperature to cool, stirring occasionally, untilganache is thick and spreadable.
- To assemble the cake, take one of the meringues and place on a serving plate. Split the filling in three parts and spread a third of the filling on the meringue with a spatula leaving 2cm border. Repeat with the second meringue. Place the third meringue on the top and spread the filling all over the top layer.
- Pour the ganache in center of the cake, then slowly butsteadily pour around edges, allowing ganache to drip down sides and cover cake.
- Decorate the cake with nuts, chopped chocolate biscuits orsome of the filling.
Originally posted in November 2015.