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Devil's food cake with hazelnut praline

Wed, 9 March, 2022

Chocolate and fudgy, frosted with malted cream and hazelnut praline topping, this cake is stupidly good.

devils food cake with hazelnut praline

Devil’s food cake with hazelnut praline from Ottolenghi is dark as hell, sweet as sin and beautiful as the devil himself. It is quite time-consuming to make and requires considerable effort plus a food processor or a blender, but the result is stunning.

Suffice to say, it looks like this is now going to be the ever-requested cake by my family and close friends for all the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and special occasions.

Yotam Ottolenghi delivers: however much you might shy from those famously long lists of ingredients, this is sensible. After all, it’s a gateau with filling, frosting and topping. Hardly a three-ingredient job.

ottolenghi devils food cake

What is devil’s food cake?

You must give it to the Americans: they can come up with excellent cake names (when they don’t call them pies). Red velvet – what a wonderful and apt moniker! Gooey butter cake follows suit. Hummingbird cake is a little ambiguous but still sounds awesome.

Devil’s food is as dark, chocolatey and fudgy as you might expect. Angel’s food, its antithesis, is light, airy and pale. Even though I like it, the wise Latin phrase springs to mind: Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor. In (totally) rough translation, darkness has more pulling power. Good old Ovid.

chocolate cake with malted cream and hazelnut praline

The cake: so simple and so good

So, devil’s food is precisely what Ottolenghi picked for the cake base. The mix needs no mixer to make, just a spatula. The liquid in devil’s food is usually water or milk, but Yotam advises to use kefir and very hot coffee.

Kefir is more and more popular these days but plain buttermilk will be also good to use, and it is what makes the cake extra moist. While the coffee wonderfully enhances and boosts chocolate flavour.

That fudgy, rich base is filled and frosted with mascarpone cream and topped with hazelnut praline.

cake layered with malted mascarpone cream and praline topping

What is praline?

It is a tough nut to make but absolutely, gloriously worth it. ‘Nut’ is intentional there as praline is made from nuts or almonds, toasted and fossilized in melted sugar.

It can subsequently be broken up into decorative or texturizing brittle. It can be blitzed to a powder used to sprinkle, decorate, add flavour or texture. Or it can be processed further until the nut oils are released and the mixture turns, magically, into paste, a kind of sweet nut or almond butter.

It is one hell of a job though, I must warn. The caramel made with melted sugar sets instantly so hard, you have to work very quickly. Your blender or food processor better be sturdy – it takes some welly to pulverise praline, let alone turn it into goo.

Thus, a couple of tips I learned the hard way: it’s better to roughly chop the nuts before toasting and stirring into the caramel.

The caramel should be only-just melted, or it will be dead solid too soon.

And it’s handy to crush the praline with a rolling pin first, before whizzing it in a machine.

Still, all of the above will invariably make an unbelievable mess all over your kitchen.

All worth it.

how to make praline

Devilishly good frosting

The mascarpone cream is simply whipped double cream boosted and tangified by a quantity of mascarpone. But the unusual ingredient, Ovaltine or Horlicks depending where you are versus the Atlantic, makes it taste out of this world.

A caramel flavour to uplift the praline and the comforting warmth of malty taste makes the cake a work of art.

It’s rich and sumptuous without being overbearing; it’s rich without getting sickly and it is show-stoppingly impressive, without belonging to those look-pretty-taste-meh cakes that rule the Instagram.

devils food cake with cream frosting and praline crunch

More chocolate cake recipes

Classically luxurious, my black forest gateau recipe uses fresh cherries and pillowy whipped cream filling.

I call this ‘life changing chocolate cake’: rich and fudgy, with apricot jam filling and chocolate ganache on top.

Pound cake comes in a chocolate version too: chocolate pound cake with crunchy crumble.

More Ottolenghi sweet recipes

My favourite Ottolenghi dessert is raspberry meringue roulade. I have no idea how long it keeps because mine has never survived a day.

Ottolenghi take on teacakes is not quite what you expect to see – more like gorgeous individual lemon and almond mini cakes.

Yotam’s approach to making meringues is a very good method: adding red hot sugar in bulk to egg whites, like in my flavoured meringue recipe.

assembling devils food cake with cream

Devil's food cake with hazelnut praline

Servings: 12Time: 3 hours


  • For the cake:
  • butter for the tin
  • 75g (34 cup) cocoa powder
  • 192g (112 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 200g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 100g (12 lightly packed cup) dark brown sugar
  • 150g (513 ounces) sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g (12 cup plus 1 tbsp.) plain kefir (or buttermilk)
  • 240g (1 cup) very hot coffee
  • For the hazelnut praline:
  • 150g (112 cups) blanched hazelnuts
  • 120g (23 cup) caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • For the mascarpone cream:
  • 300g (114 cups) double cream
  • 95g (13 cup plus 1 tbsp.) mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp. malted milk powder, such as Ovaltine
  • 30g (14 cup plus 2 tsp.) icing sugar
  • a pinch of salt


1. Preheat the oven to 200C (no fan if possible)/375F/gas 6. Butter and line with parchment 2 cake tins with loose base and line the bottoms with parchment.

2. Place the cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and both sugars in a large bowl and stir together. Make sure the brown sugar isn’t clumped.

3. In a smaller bowl whisk together the oil, eggs and kefir. Fold the mix into the dry ingredients followed by 220g/3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp hot coffee and reserve the rest of the coffee for brushing the cakes later. Fold with a spatula until smooth and combined.

4. Divide the batter between the 2 tins (about 600g into each). Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave the oven on. Cool the cakes for 15 minutes, then brush the tops lightly with the remaining coffee. Cool completely in the tins.

5. To make the praline, roughly chop the hazelnuts. Spread them on a baking tray lined with parchment and toast in the oven for 10 minutes until golden, shaking the tray halfway through. Set aside on the tray to cool.

6. Heat a sturdy saucepan over medium heat. When hot, sprinkle the sugar over the bottom in three goes, waiting until it melts around the edges before each addition. Cook until it completely dissolves without stirring much.

7. Turn it off the heat and quickly add the hazelnuts. Turn the praline out immediately, scraping it back onto the parchment lined tray. Leave to cool.

8. When it’s cool to handle break it up into chunks. Blitz it in a food processor into powder. Decant about 75g/ ½ cup into a small bowl and continue to process the rest of the praline until it turns into smooth liquid, like nut butter. Scrape it into another bowl.

9. To make the mascarpone cream, place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer or a balloon whisk until soft peaks form.

10. To assemble the cake, run a palette knife round the tins to release the cakes. Invert one cake onto a board, remove the parchment then invert again onto a cake stand or serving platter (domed side up). Remove the other cake onto the board with the parchment, parchment side down.

11. Spoon half the cream onto the bottom cake. Spoon about 2 tbsp. of the smooth praline and gently swirl it through the cream with a spatula. Top with half the praline powder.

12. Invert the other cake on top now and remove the parchment. Top with the remaining cream and repeat with the smooth praline and praline crumble.

13. Serve straight away, or chill to firm up the cream before serving. The cake will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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