chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog
‘Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming of something else.’ – Miranda July

This sentence stuck out to me today after a night of taking care of sick kids, another morning of -10 degree weather, more news of cancer and sadness, and a winter with no end in sight. Deep sighs, and one foot in front of the other.

I made these little cakes a few days ago, when the sun was shinning through our windows and we were saying things like, ‘finally we are all healthy!’ and ‘this cold can’t last much longer!’ Dreamers dreaming dreams.

Some beautiful things: Laura has a chocolate hazelnut torte up today, if you need a vegan and gluten free chocolate-hazelnut fix. Melissa made my chocolate bread and has exciting news. And, this article by The Onion helped me smile today. ‘You just have to keep carrying the flame inside you. No matter how hard it gets to be, you carry that g-d*m fire. It’s a hard world. Life is hard. But no matter what, you carry that fire, and you don’t let go.’
chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog
Chocolate Mini Cakes with Hazelnut Buttercream
You can use pretty much any chocolate cake recipe here, (I used my favorite chocolate cake) as long as it is for two 8 or 9 inch pans. Pour all the batter into a greased half sheet pan. I baked the cake at 350 degrees for 15–20 min­utes, until a tooth­pick inserted into the cen­ter came out clean. (You can also bake the bat­ter in rounds if you do not have a half sheet pan, just note that your cake lay­ers will be thicker; you will have to cut the rounds in half, or just keep it as one thick layer.)

After bak­ing the cake, let it cool, and the refrigerate until very well chilled (refrigerating over night is a good idea, and you could even put in the freezer for 15 minutes before stamping out rounds). Use a large bis­cuit cut­ter or tartlet rings to stamp out the rounds, which will be your cake layers. Frost the lay­ers, and place one layer on top of another, mak­ing a mini cake. If you have tartets rings, you can layer the cake and frosting inside them, making for neat even cakes (my rings are 3 inches wide by 2 inches tall, and I was able to get 2 layers of cake inside). But free form will work, too. (I have photographs on Handmade Charlotte showing how to assemble them free form). After stamping out cake rounds and layering them with frosting, frost cakes and pipe if desired (I used a small leaf tip here, and some white sugar pearls).
chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog
Hazelnut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

I added 2 tablespoons of Frangelico here, but would have liked a little more. If you are nervous about making buttercream, Zoe has a great post with pictures here. You could also use this frosting and add Frangelico to it.

1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
5 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup superfine sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons Frangelico, or other hazelnut flavored liqueor

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk together until the sugar dissolves. Put the bowl over a simmering pot of water (not boiling), and stir constantly, until temperature reaches 160°F, about 5 minutes.

Move the bowl to the standing mixer, and with the whisk attachment, begin to whip on high speed until the meringue is thick, glossy, and forms stiff, shiny peaks, and the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch (5-7 minutes).

Change to the paddle attachment, and with the mixer on medium-high, beat the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until each piece is incorporated (if the buttercream appears to curdle, keep mixing and adding butter and it will come back to smooth). After all the butter has been added, add the vanilla and Frangelico and continue beating until the buttercream is very light in texture and color, 3 to 5 minutes. Buttercream can be made, covered, and stored at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
chocolate mini cakes with chocolate hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

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38 Responses to chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream

  1. Oh, what a winter you’ve had so far, Sarah. 🙁 Ours can’t compare, but we’ve been going through similar news and weather (less severe temperatures though, to be sure) so your post is such a balm to read. Not to mention these cakes are just beautiful. I love that you used tartlet rings to get that nice, even frosting — I was going to ask after I saw it on IG! Gorgeous, and love the Frangelico in the buttercream. Thank you for posting this!

  2. molly yeh says:

    these are STUNNING! seriously gorgeous. i am so sorry about all of the pooey things going on and i hope your kids get better soon!! (although if i was them, and my mom made these mini cakes, i’d want to stay home sick from school and eat these all day long…)

  3. Hazelnut must be in the air because I’m using it too this week and those little cakes are absolutely gorgeous. I hope you get to relax soon and everyone at home gets better quickly!

  4. I’m so sorry to hear that your life has been tough lately. Oh girl, that last quote from the Onion made me cry. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!
    P.S. These cakes look stunning. I love the details!

  5. Ah! These are so so gorgeous, absolutely lovely!

  6. Laura says:

    The cakes are so beautiful! I hope you and your family are all well soon 🙂

  7. Erika says:

    That quote is so true.. even when it seems you’re holding on too nothing.. Sorry to hear things have been tough lately. Sending good vibes and hopes for bright days your way. This cake is just stunning and now has me dreaming of hazelnut buttercream.

  8. these are SO LOVELY!!! I need to have mini cake in my life. I need some cake period. guess what: spring is coming, spring is coming………..

  9. Oh my!! That buttercream looks so good!

  10. These cakes are just effortlessly darling and beutiful

  11. i dream of broken cakes… I mean, send me your snow and I will take care of the cake.


  12. Oh gosh. It sure does sound like it’s been a tough time. It’s lovely that you find the joy in the little things. Sometimes that just makes a huge difference.

    One thing you mentioned reminded me of one of my new favorite songs by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes called Life is Hard. If you haven’t heard it, I suggest taking a listen to it.

  13. Sheesh you’re rocking these mini cakes love! Sending you all the healing vibes in the world, you’ve had a rough time lately xx

  14. sara forte says:

    i love that quote. I feel I can relate as well though my tough mud is looking a little different than yours. So sorry that bugs have not left you, but I know health and sun is in sight! It just must be! Thinking of you all and if anything, may you rest knowing you are one damn fine cake maker.

  15. These may be the most perfectly beautiful cakes ever! Just what you need after the season you’ve had! xo

  16. So beautiful! Why does the miniature version always seem better than the bigger one??

  17. […] #BABYCAKESBYSARAH and it means I can eat multiple. (via The Vanilla Bean Blog) […]

  18. Kathryn says:

    It certainly feels like it’s been a long and hard winter doesn’t it? Hold onto those rays of sunshine, hopefully they’ll be back again soon xo

  19. I used to live in Minneapolis but after more than a decade in warmer climates I started dreaming of beautiful snowy winters. A recent trip to Canada, just north of Minneapolis cured that in a hurry! Beautiful cake and beautiful writing!

  20. Emily says:

    This winter is seriously kicking our butts. We can’t see over the snowbanks anymore (the ones around our house are literally taller than we are). And the whole too cold to ski thing is such a bummer this winter. It’s not too cold to bake though, and these little cakelets are gorgeous! (Also, you find the most perfect quotes.)

  21. Tieghan says:

    I feel like this winter has been a little tough too. I am very excited for spring and some added brightness to my day and hopefully yours too!

    This is is simply gorgeous!

  22. Sacha says:

    Hang in there, Sarah. It’s should almost be over. But I keep telling myself that, and it keeps coming back—each week more furious than the last. I know only through social media that your family has been hit much harder than others, and my thoughts are with you and the little ones. Here’s hoping these beautiful (seriously dreamy, for sure) little beauties and others like them will pull you through. The kitchen is safe and warm, especially if the oven is on :).

  23. Laura says:

    I’m glad we both turned to chocolate and hazelnut sweets to bring some light into this truly never ending winter. It’s been a rough one up here too, but we’re all in it together and it’s an almost warming thought to know that others are feeling the same way. I’m really looking forward to savouring spring and summer this year. We’ve earned it. xo

    • Sarah says:

      We have earned it! And, there are predictions of 20 degree days later this week (it’s been -5 or colder for over a week here), and that sounds heavenly to me. 😉

  24. […] Some of my other favourite mini cakes around the web: Mini Matcha Cakes, Rainbow Mini Cakes, Mini Chocolate Cakes with Hazelnut Buttercream. […]

  25. oh my goodness pass the milk please… I must have a taste of this yumminess! I pinned and will be featuring at Katherines Corner tomorrow too. I invite you to stop by and share your wonderful blog at my blog hop. Hugs!

  26. […] I found this wonderful  recipe for chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream at the Vanilla Bean Blog. […]

  27. Heather says:

    I made this cake with the chocolate cake from your cookbook and this hazelnut buttercream. I bake a lot and my husband said this is one of his favorite cakes with frosting. It was a perfect combination.

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