Put your baking skills to the test with this recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue and Mousse Cake

Day one:
Chocolate Mirror Glaze: (Can be made up to 3 days in advance)
6g (3) Gelatin Leaves – soaked in 1 liter cold water until soft about 20 minutes
250g Granulated Sugar
50g Dark Cocoa Powder – sifted (I use NoMU)
100ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping Cream
125ml Water
50g 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

Hazelnut Meringue Layers:
4 XL egg whites
2.5ml cream of tartar
200 ml granulated sugar
125 ml Raw Hazelnuts – roasted in a dry pan until lightly browned then ground finely
1ml vanilla seeds
Pinch Maldon Salt flakes

Day two:
Chocolate Mousse Filling:
100g 85% Chocolate – chopped
200g dark chocolate 70% – chopped
6 XL Egg Yolks – at room temperature

250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – at room temperature

500ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping cream
6g Gelatin leaves – softened in 1 liter cold water for 20 minutes
120g Castor sugar
5ml Vanilla Extract

Flourless Chocolate Cake Layers: (repeat recipe for 2 layers)
4 XL eggs – separated (room temperature)
1 Egg Yolk only
200g Castor Sugar
130g 85% Chocolate (this amounts to 1 slab plus 3 blocks of Lindt)
50g Unsalted Butter
2,5ml Maldon Salt
1ml Vanilla seeds

Day three:
Candied Hazelnuts: (prepare while cake is cooling in the fridge)
20 Hazelnuts – lightly toasted (this will ensure you have extra to allow for breakages)
20 thin cocktail sticks with sharp ends
250ml sugar
15ml Water
5ml lemon juice
Pack of Prestik or Blu-tack

How to
Day one:
Chocolate Mirror Glaze:
Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, cream and water in a saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and it comes to the boil

Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces until melted

Squeeze most of the water out of the gelatin leaves then drop them into the hot chocolate glaze and stir until dissolved

Pass the glaze through a rough sieve and stir gently then allow to cool for about 15 minutes

Pass the glaze through a fine sieve so that it has no bubbles or tiny lumps in it. I hold the sieve close to the bowl so that no little bubbles form when it pours through

Set aside to cool enough to glaze the cake (if making beforehand seal once cooled and place in the fridge until required. You would have to warm it slightly to make it pourable before use if refrigerated)

Hazelnut Meringue Layers:
Preheat oven to 110deg C and place rack on bottom shelf of oven

Line 2 30x20cm (ungreased) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using the same springform pan bottom as a template trace a circle onto each sheet of paper then turn the paper over on the cookie sheets so that the pencil mark is on the underside

In a very clean metal mixing bowl using a very clean whisk beat the egg whites with vanilla seeds and cream of tartar until soft peaks form

Beat in the sugar gradually – 1 tablespoon at a time – until glossy stiff peaks form.

Fold in the ground hazelnuts gently using a metal spoon

Divide in half and spoon the meringue onto the paper using an offset spatula to spread it evenly inside the circles and smoothing the tops

Place both pans on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 1 hour until crisp and dry. Check it after 45 minutes as they are thin disks and ovens vary

Turn off oven and allow to cool for an hour before removing and cooling completely in the pan. Turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper backing

Store in an airtight container until required. Can be made 2 or 3 days ahead of use

(You could make one thick meringue layer, baking for about 1 ½ hours and cooling for 2 hours in the oven if preferred but I wanted a 4 layer cake at the end of the process)

Day two:
Chocolate Mousse Filling:
Place the egg yolks, cream cheese, vanilla extract and 100g of the sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and thick

Place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Pour 200ml cream into a jug and micro on high until the cream just comes to the boil. Squeeze most of the water from the gelatin then whisk the leaves into the hot cream mixture. Pour this over the chopped chocolate and leave to melt then whisk gently until all the chocolate has melted

Pour the still hot chocolate mixture slowly over the beaten egg yolk mixture while the mixer is running on low and whisk until all mixed in. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes before adding the whipped cream

Beat the rest of the cream and 20g sugar until stiff peaks form then add 2 tablespoons to the egg mixture to loosen and fold in. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream gently and then fold the rest of it into the egg mixture until evenly distributed

Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to set for a few hours

Flourless Chocolate Cake Layers:
Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave on low for 2 minutes – whisk after each minute then set aside to cool a bit once smooth

Preheat oven to 160deg C

Brush bottom and sides of a swissroll tin 30x25cm with melted butter then line with parchment paper. Brush paper with butter as well

Place egg whites into a very clean mixing bowl and beat on high with a very clean whisk or blades until frothy. Add half the sugar, 1 Tbs at a time, beating all the time until medium stiff glossy peaks form (not dry stiff peaks) Set aside

Place egg yolks, salt, vanilla and sugar into a second large mixing bowl and using the same blade or whisk beat on high speed until pale and thick – about 3 or 4 minutes

Beat the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture

Fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon until evenly distributed then pour the mixture into the prepared pan

Bake for 15 minutes then remove and cool

Repeat recipe for the second layer

Once cooled cut into 2 circles using a 23cm Springform pan as a template

Turn over onto a wire rack and place a warm wet tea towel over the base of the pan for just a few seconds to loosen the cake.

Remove the pan, peel off the paper, remove the offcut bits of cake and wrap the 2 circles gently in clingfilm (I use a piece of cardboard as a base as these cakes are delicate and light) and store in an airtight container.

To assemble:
Brush base and sides of a 23cm springform pan with melted butter. Line the base with a circle of parchment paper and brush paper with butter as well

Place the first chocolate circle into the base and drizzle 20ml of hazelnut liqueur over the cake

Place one third of the chocolate mousse filling on top and smooth with a spoon or spatula. Tap the pan gently on your counter top to fill up any gaps

Place a layer of hazelnut meringue onto the smoothed and straightened mousse in the pan, and fill with half the remaining mousse. Give another tap on the counter top to settle it all into place

Repeat with the second meringue layer and pour the remaining mousse over the top. Tap on the counter top again once or twice then smooth the top with an offset spatula until it is even and very smooth

Place the final chocolate cake layer on top and press down gently so that it is level with the top of the sides of the pan. Drizzle 20ml hazelnut liqueur over the cake then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight before coating with the mirror glaze

Day three:
Unmoulding the cake and covering with mirror glaze:
Remove prepared mousse cake from the fridge and wrap a warm towel around it to loosen from the sides and bottom of the pan. Unclip and remove the sides of the springform pan and place cake on a wire rack over a clean baking tray (I left it on the base of the springform pan because it was easier and you don’t see the base at all once glazed)

Warm the mirror glaze in the microwave for 30 seconds, give it a gentle stir to mix then pour the glaze onto the centre top of the cold cake. Using an offset spatula level and spread it outwards and allow it to run over the sides of the cake, covering it completely. You can use the spatula to smooth the sides a bit if you like but the rippled patterns look quite good

Allow to stand for 15 minutes or so until it has set a bit then gently lift the cake and place it on a serving plate or board and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set completely

(the extra glaze that dripped into the baking tray can be lifted with a spatula and poured through a fine sieve to remove any cake crumbs and kept for dessert or ice cream topping (yummy with some chopped toasted hazelnuts swirled through it)

Candied Hazelnuts:
Prepare a dripping space for the candied hazelnuts – underside of a cupboard hung over your counter top is ideal. Line the surface directly below with newspaper. Stick 20 balls of prestik (tick-tack or Blu-tack) evenly apart in a row on the underside of the cupboard (I did this the night before!)

Poke a wooden cocktail stick into the bottom of each hazelnut and set aside

Place a large pan of iced water close to the stove to stop cooking once the sugar is at the correct level of cooking (pan must be big enough to hold the saucepan)

Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Don’t stir but you can swirl the pan gently to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. You can wash down the sides of the saucepan with a brush dipped in cold water if needed to avoid crystals forming in the candy

Bring it to the boil over moderate heat then watch it carefully as it boils and allow it to turn a light to medium amber colour – no darker otherwise it goes bitter

Remove from heat once the desired colour has been reached and plunge the saucepan into the icy water bath to stop the cooking process and to cool the candy down for about 10 minutes. It is cool enough when you can dip the back of a wooden spoon into it and it forms a long slow droplet when you remove it. The shard of candy should be able to snap cleanly when cold

Gently dip and swirl the prepared hazelnuts into the candy then remove and stick the back ends of each cocktail stick into the prepared prestik balls, working from the ball furthest from you and allow to drip in long strands and cool and harden completely before removing the wooden sticks gently and breaking the beautiful candy spikes about 10cm or so from the hazelnuts (it was a damp humid day when I made mine so the spikes would not stand up. I remedied it by breaking the candy off close to the hazelnuts…not the same visual effect I was looking for but it worked well)

To serve:
Remove cake from the fridge, decorate with the candied hazelnuts around the outer edge and some roughly chopped hazelnuts in the centre then cut into wedges and serve. We ate ours as is but you could cut the richness with a few fresh or frozen raspberries and a dollop of creme fraiche

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