August 01, 2012

Basil Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

Kitchen Vignettes is 1 year old!

Exactly one year ago today, while on vacation, I succumbed to the crazy urge to start a video food blog. I had been it putting off / trying my best to talk myself out of it because I didn't need yet another distraction keeping me from working on my master's thesis. But when a little bird (in the form of a very handsome young man) suggested that blogging could be a sketchbook of sorts for my thesis (which happens to be a film about food), that was all the rationale I needed, and off I went with my first post & video about garlic scape pesto

Well, a year and several recipes have passed since that first post, and despite my thesis not being much further ahead than it was at this time last year (although it's very much in the works, I promise), I have gained so much from this little blogging adventure! This has become a cherished space where I can express myself and play and share the stories behind the foods I love. Most importantly, it's been an opportunity to connect more deeply with family and friends over our shared love of eating, and to meet so many wonderful new friends: bloggers, writers, farmers, cooks, gourmands... both in person and virtually. I have been astounded by the encouragement, warmth, and enthusiasm with which Kitchen Vignettes has been received, and by the incredible thrill I experience from sharing recipes and stories with you all. Your comments and suggestions are always so informative, inspiring, and fun to read. From meeting superstar gardeners like Tonya, to connecting with readers in Spain, to learning about wild edibles, to sharing one of my mom's most magical holiday recipes, to going to New York and meeting a fabulous bunch of fellow food lovers at Saveur Magazine's headquarters, what an incredibly amazing year it's been! Here's to celebrating good food and meeting many new faces in this second year of blogging. 

To celebrate the occasion, I want to share one of my favourite summer recipes: basil hazelnut chocolate cake. Years ago, my mom found this recipe in a little basil cookbook (whose title I sadly can't recall), and since she was a passionate basil grower (one year she grew 15 varieties of basil!), we used to enjoy this cake every summer, made with freshly harvested fragrant basil straight from her garden. This cake is more of a torte really. It's moist and rich, with ground hazelnuts and only 2 tablespoons of flour, which can easily be substituted for additional ground hazelnuts to make a gluten-free, flourless version. Frothy egg whites lighten up the density of the chocolate batter and the basil sings through and tickles the palate. In the past, I have been known to throw in a dash of cayenne pepper which gives this cake an added air of mystery. Ooh la la. I like to serve it with a chocolate ganache, a sprinkle of icing sugar, some fresh basil leaves, and edible flowers if available. A dollop of basil-infused whipped cream never hurts either ;-)


8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I like to use 4 oz unsweetened and 4 oz bittersweet)
6 oz. butter (3/4 cup)
1 cup finely minced basil (handle basil with care, it's delicate... for a primer on how to properly chop it, click here)
4 eggs
2/3 cup cane sugar
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and ground
2 tbsp. flour (you can use gluten-free flour mix)

Heat oven to 350 F and lightly toast the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet (about 10 minutes). Allow to cool fully and then grind in a coffee grinder. They should form a coarse "flour". 

Grease an 8-inch cake pan and lightly dust it with flour.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, remove from heat and add minced basil. Mix well and cool. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture forms pale yellow silky ribbons when the beaters are lifted. Incorporate into chocolate mixture and add the hazelnuts and flour.  Mix gently but well. Beat egg whites to peaks, add remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Gently and gradually fold into chocolate mixture. Mix delicately, until fully incorporated. Immediately pour into prepared pan and bake in 350 F oven for about 35 minutes or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, on a wire rack. To serve, invert cake and cover with a chocolate ganache if you wish (see how to make ganache here). Serve with sprigs of basil and anything else that strikes your fancy! (Whipped cream with a splash of Frangelico and purple basil for instance...)


  1. I wonder who that young man was. The cake is really great. I gotta try this one somehow.

  2. This is fantastic. I have SO much basil in my garden and I need things to do with it! And thanks for inspiring me to look for a basil cookbook. I desperately need one as my basil is ready to harvest, the beetles are beginning to get to it, and I have already made tons of pesto. Thank you Aube for another beautiful post. xoxo

  3. You make beautiful food look SO easy and elegant. I adore all of your recipes and photos (and videos). I've been a little nutso about making EVERYTHING with mint this summer. yummy.....
    Thanks for sharing,

  4. Again , A beautiful post, cant wait to try the cake, the video of how to chop basil was a hoot,
    learned alot!

  5. Congratulation on this feat! I think putting it up doesn’t mean that it would be another distraction for your thesis. I think you can formulate thesis ideas for education purposes while working on this because it would let your mind be refresh and exercise.

  6. Hey Aube, can you please assess whether this recipe, the Rosemary Rye Brownie, and Guinness Brownie recipes will work and be yummy with coconut oil/ghee instead of butter? Thanks a bunch!

    1. Hi so sorry for the delay replying, somehow missed this... they should be ok with coconut oil or ghee though maybe a bit harder as a consistency. I find that because coconut oil solidifies when cooled, baked goods are often of a harder consistency. Keep me posted how it goes :)