chocolate hazelnut cake with vanilla hazelnut buttercream

sometimes living on a farm feels like living in one great big jungle gym. there's tons of exploring to be done, secret forts (err-- cake houses) to be built, rogue patches of rhubarb to pick, and things to climb on. a small round bowl-cut 1993 version of myself would have given anything to hang out on this farm. i was always getting into trouble climbing on our piano and on the fancy statues at ravinia. (in junior high this manifested itself in an indoor rock climbing phase and the aol screen name of roxclimber1. *i know*)

these days it's usually eggboy and eggdad that do the climbing. they climb up into grain bins and onto trucks and tractors for all sorts of reasons, but by far the coolest climbing thing on our farm is a 110 foot grain leg. (here's a visual. the tallest part is the leg, and the things around it are bins.) there are stairs all the way up, and currently there are christmas lights on it to make it look like a candy cane.

but when i say it's the coolest climbing thing, i actually mean it's the scariest climbing thing. i went up there once and it was enough. it was super windy and it sort of felt like being at the top of a roller coaster, only on a roller coaster you're strapped in, so...

the eggparents love it though! they climb up and down when they're preparing for hiking trips, and sometimes they use it as some sort of nutso party trick. i'm pretty sure that some of our wedding guests went up there past dark. oh goodness, i could never do that.

since the lights are up this year, apparently climbing up at night is a hotter ticket than normal, so eggdad commissioned me to make this cake for a darned grain leg climbing party. apparently he's having friends over and we're (they're) going to put coveralls on, climb the grain leg all together, and then come back down and eat cake. sounds horrifying. but you know me: any excuse to make a cake.

squirrels climb, squirrels like nuts, i've never eaten an acorn though, so here's a chocolate hazelnut cake with a marzipan squirrel! it's super lovely and nutty and it has a vanilla hazelnut buttercream filling. it's totally half-able or cupcake-able, and if you'd prefer another marzipan critter, mr. squirrel will be sad but he'll get over it.

chocolate hazelnut cake with vanilla hazelnut frosting

makes one 2-layer 8-inch cake



1 c raw unsalted hazelnuts, plus more for decorating

1 3/4 c sugar

2 1/4 c flour

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 c milk

1/2 c vegetable or canola oil

1 tb vanilla extract

3/4 c boiling water


1 lb unsalted butter, softened

4 2/3 c powdered sugar

a good pinch of kosher salt

1 tb vanilla extract


marzipan kneaded with food coloring, cut into cute shapes



preheat oven to 350.

grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

place the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind them until you have small crumbs. measure out 1/4 cup of the crumbs and set them aside for the filling.

pour the remaining crumbs into a large bowl and whisk in the rest of the dry ingredients. in a medium bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients except for the boiling water. whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then stir in the boiling water. it will be a very thin batter. pour into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn them onto a greased cooling rack.


use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. measure out one cup of the frosting and transfer it to a small bowl. fold in the reserved 1/4 cup of ground hazelnuts. 


level your cake layers and spread the top of one of them with the hazelnutty frosting. place the other layer on top, and then frost all over with the remaining frosting. decorate with marzipan cutouts, crushed hazelnuts, sprinkles, or whatever else you'd like!