Recipe: Autumn Praline Loaf Cake

Autumn Hazelnut Praline Loaf Cake

Say hello to the best cake I have ever made. Last autumn I attended the launch of Nadine Levy Redzepi’s first cookbook Downtime: Deliciousness at Home. It was a lovely brunch; Melissa Hemsley interviewed Nadine about her very Scandi, very down to earth approach to home cooking for a family that just so happens to include the most acclaimed chef in the world. The book is lovely and approachable, and while I have so many bookmarks for things I want to make (sausage dumplings, the amazing, coconut topped Danish Dream Cake we ate at the launch) soon after getting the book I made this cake in the ramshackle temporary kitchen my parents had during their renovation. I’d never made praline before or used double cream in a cake, and the results are just dreamy.
Hazelnut Autumn Praline Loaf Cake

I think this is the perfect cake to celebrate autumn, which is why I have been saving it all year. In my book, autumn is the start of the culinary year, and that is something to shout about. I bill this as a ‘celebration’ cake because I’ve got to warn you, forget the pure indulgence of all the sugar and cream that goes into this cake, hazelnuts are pricy, but worth splurging on. The original recipe calls for a whole vanilla pod (I swear vanilla costs more than saffron these days), but I’ve made this a bit more manageable by using vanilla bean paste.

Praline Loaf Cake
Autumn Praline Loaf Cake

Two more important recipe notes: make sure you use a good, heatproof spatula when you scrape the praline from the pan onto the lined baking sheet. If you don’t have one, just use the wooden spoon and leave a bit of the caramelised sugar behind; I have melted a regular spatula making this cake, and I now swear by this Le Creuset one (the ones they use in the Great British Bake Off tent!) Also, store this cake in the fridge and take it out about an hour before serving; the fresh cream in the praline topping will spoil at room temperature faster than you can eat the cake as it is rather rich – I usually serve it as a dessert!
Autumn Praline Topped Loaf Cake

One final recommendation: as a companion to buying the book, listen to the episode where Nadine is interviewed about the food she cooks at home of Desert Island Dishes. It is my favourite podcast to listen to on my daily power walks, and this episode captures most of the interview we enjoyed with Nadine that morning in Fitzrovia a few days before her book hit the shelves.

 

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Autumn Praline Loaf Cake

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 10
  • Category: Baking
  • Cuisine: Danish

Description

This indulgent loaf cake topped with homemade hazelnut praline is perfect to celebrate the start of autumn.


Ingredients

For The Cake

  • 90g (3 oz) Hazelnuts
  • 200g (7 oz) Plain (All Purpose) Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 110g (4 oz) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 300g (10 1/2 oz) Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 210ml (7 1/4 fl oz) Double Cream

For the Praline Topping

  • 200g (7 oz) Hazelnuts
  • 200g (7 oz) Golden Caster Sugar
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) Double Cream
  • Sea Salt

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (160 if you’re using a fan oven, which is 350 or 320 Fahrenheit). Lightly butter a 2 lb loaf tin (the bigger of the two standard sizes) taking care to get a good amount of butter into the corners to stop the cake from sticking – believe it or not, but the corners you actually see in these pictures are bonded back on with a dab of creme fraiche – I did not do the job well enough the second time I made this! Cut a strip of baking parchment as wide as the bottom of the tin so you can line the base and two of the sides.
  2. To make the cake, blitz the hazelnuts in a food processor until you have a fine flour, like the texture of ground almonds, and combine that with the flour, baking powder and sea salt in a small bowl.
  3. In a bigger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste either by hand or using an electric whisk. When the mixture is pale and light, beat in the eggs, one by one.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat into the batter. Then add 1/3 of the cream, and alternate beating in the flour mixture and the cream until everything has formed into a smooth cake batter.
  5. Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes until the cake is risen, golden and you can insert a cake tester or toothpick into it and it comes back clean.
  6. While the cake is in the oven, make the praline. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
  7. Heat the hazelnuts in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until they are very hot to the touch, then add the sugar. Now, making praline is not scary. If you remember you can always lower the heat and stir the nuts, not much can go wrong. Stir the sugar occasionally until it starts to melt a little, then stir the sugar into the melty patches. You want to melt the sugar completely to coat the nuts and to have a nice deep caramel colour, but not to be dark brown as burnt sugar is not very tasty! My two biggest tips here is to just turn the heat down or temporarily remove the pan from the heat if you feel things are going too fast for you, and not to worry if the sugar does not totally melt when it coats the nuts and you still have a few crystals; you can always choose your best nuts for the decoration, and the rest will be whizzed up anyway. You’ll get a better praline every time you make it, practice makes perfect!
  8. Once the nuts are coated in the caramel, use a heatproof spatula (depending on your spatula oiling it a little with a flavourless oil sometimes helps) scrape it onto the baking sheet and quickly spread it into a single layer.
  9. Allow the praline to cool until you can happily use a large knife to roughly chop it. Set a handful aside to decorate.
  10. Blitz about 1/4 of the remaining praline in a food processor until you have a nut butter-like paste. Add 1/4 of the cream and blitz until smooth, and continue until you have a thick, smooth paste.
  11. To assemble the cake, run a sharp knife carefully around the edge of the loaf tin to help release the sponge as soon as it comes out of the oven. After 10 minutes, turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
  12. Spread the praline across the top of the cake, and decorate with the remaining nuts. Allow the praline to set in a cool place for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Notes

You’ll need to cut thicker slices when you first serve the cake as the crumb is very moist, light and will easily crumble if the slices are too slim. After the cake has been in the fridge over night and the weight of the praline topping has compressed the crumb a little you’ll be able to cut it into much thinner slices.

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