We moved to Kansas City nearly five years ago. FIVE years. what?
When we moved here, we knew no one. It was just me, Kiley, and our furry son Guinness. My aunt and uncle live within an hour from KC, which helped the transition of moving away from my family in Oklahoma. Our first winter was long and cold. Ice crystals formed on the INSIDE of the windows in our drafty rent house. Kiley and I sat around in matching blue Snuggies hoping that our fingers would thaw out eventually.
Trying to make friends as you get older is a funny and actually hard thing. It’s like dating all over again. But we don’t have college as a buffer. I found myself trying to pick up strangers in the grocery store… “So…you like avocados too? Ya…. Want to be friends?”
I didn’t know how to make friends. I’m awkward. I’m an engineer. I suck at small talk. My cousin gave me pointers on making friends…I kid you not.
Join a club. Go to a class. Ya. Ok… I knew I could do it, right? I’m friendly. I like people. Right?
So I went to a gardening class, a cooking class, canning and preserving classes, knitting classes. Basically I met every 70 year old in KC. I planted sweet potatoes with all of them too. They are awesome (the sweet potatoes and my grannies), but they don’t make great “couple” friends. And they eat dinner at 4pm. I eat at 5pm people…who eats at 4pm and at a buffet. I do NOT do buffets. They have jello surprise. *Shudder*
Needless to say, after five years I feel incredibly lucky to have developed quite a family of friends. Friends that feel as though we known each other for ever. Friends that feel more like family ever day. Friends that all wear blue on the same day by accident to have a great joint birthday celebration for my girlfriend Tessa and my husband.
And just like my 70 year BFFs taught me, you always have to make birthdays special. My grandma taught me well and that’s why I always like to make a fabulous birthday cake for anyone on their special day! This Flourless Chocolate Cake was adapted from the ever inspiring and talented Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I tweaked a few things, added a pinch of cayenne and also topped with addictive candied hazelnuts. This cake has a wow factor that will impress anyone. So consider whipping this up for anyone that is special in your life that you want to just say….
“I’m so thankful that you are alive. This world is a better place because of you…so let’s have CAKE.”
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Candied Hazelnuts
(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter
- 5 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate (I used 70% cocoa), diced into pieces
- 4 large eggs, separated (at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
- candied hazelnuts for topping (see recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch round springform pan with a circle of parchment paper and generously butter the sides of the pan. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the butter by melting it and stirring frequently. Allow the butter to continue to cook and foam. Brown bits will begin to form at the bottom of the saucepan after about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan with the browned butter from the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Stir until the chocolate is entirely melted. To cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature, transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a heat resistant bowl (glass is best) and nest it in a larger bowl of cold or ice water. Be careful to not allow the cooling water to get into the melted chocolate. Stir the cooling chocolate frequently so that it cools evenly.
- In a large bowl, beat the room temperature egg yolks, maple syrup, and vanilla together until the mixture becomes thick. Slowly mix in the chocolate mixture, cinnamon, and cayenne to the egg yolk mixture until it becomes extremely thick.
- In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat the four egg whites and salt until firm peaks form. Gently stir in one third of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture until evenly combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture and try to keep the batter as light as possible.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven in the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top has formed a thin domed crust. To test, stick a skewer in the middle of the cake and it will come out clean when done. Cool for five minutes and then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with crushed candied hazelnuts.
(Note – can be made up to 1 day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container)
- 1/3 cup raw hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup palm sugar or evaporated cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- pinch flaky sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and toast them for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to allow for even toasting. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the skins by rubbing the nuts in a dry dish towel or between the palms of your hands.
- Place parchment paper over a plate and have a set of small tongs ready to be used. In a small heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and water (do not stir) over medium heat until the sugar melts and turns a caramel color (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add the sea salt and hazelnuts. Stir and allow the caramel to coat the hazelnuts. Turn the heat off. Remove the hazelnuts one by one with the tongs and place them onto the parchment paper, making sure that they do not touch each other. Cool the nuts completely (or place in the fridge). Once cooled, the nuts will easily fall off of the parchment paper.
- To break into pieces, place the candied hazelnuts into a ziplock bag and seal. Use the bottom of a glass or a hammer, and smash them (don’t pulverize) into large chunks. Keep in an airtight container until ready to use.