Firstly, I must apologise for the fact that most of the cakes that I put on this blog are chocolate. It’s just because every time I get asked to make a cake for someone they ask for chocolate! Also, it’s such a versatile flavour and can be totally changed according to what you pair it with. As usual, I’ve the sponge recipe from my Peanut butter // Chocolate cake and the Chocolate // Caramel // Caramelised Bacon cake. It’s such a great chocolate sponge recipe as it stays nice and moist, but you need to be extra careful when removing it from the tins because of this.
I made this cake for my mum’s birthday over the weekend. It’s the perfect cake for her: every Christmas I bake my gifts, and she always asks for Florentines. She’s such a nut fiend that she has in the past been nicknamed ‘The Squirrel”. And there is no better partner for nuts than caramel: so sweet and sticky and yum and ohmygod I love caramel.
The fig, pistachio, date and honey florentines are just magic. The figs are definitely the stand out ingredient: the seeds pop and crunch as you chew and the dates make them just a little more chewy and rich.
It’s taken me a few Christmases to adapt this recipe, but this is THE one. I always add the honey as we have such a sweet tooth but you don’t need to if you don’t fancy it.
So, you will need:
For the florentines:
75g golden caster sugar
10g plain flour plus plus extra for dusting
55ml double cream
100g whole pistachios, chopped
50g flaked almonds
50g dried figs
50g dates (stones removed)
For the chocolate sponge:
120g cocoa powder
260g hot decaf coffee (You don’t have to use decaf for this, but after trying it both ways a few times, this seems to have more flavour *shrugs*)
15g vanilla essence
430g plain flour
1 tbsp bicarbinate of soda
425g unsalted butter
3x round 8″ tins, greased
For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup cream
60g unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
For the caramel buttercream:
1k icing sugar
230g unsalted butter
120ml whole milk
3 tbsp caramel (recipe above)
2 large handfuls chopped, roasted hazelnuts (for sprinkling over the top during assembly of the cake)
For the hazelnut spikes:
3 cups golden caster sugar
3/4 cup water
20 skinned hazelnuts
20 long spiked wooden sticks
To start with, make the florentines.
Cover two large baking sheets with baking parchment.
Put the butter together with the sugar and flour in a small, heavy-based saucepan over a very low heat, and keep stirring until the mixture has melted. Now gradually add the cream, stirring continuously to keep it smooth. Then add all the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate. Stir thoroughly again, then remove the saucepan from the heat and put the mixture on one side to cool. You’ll find it easier to bake one sheet of the Florentines at a time, so now place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2.5cm apart (to allow the mixture room to expand while baking). Flatten each spoonful with the back of the spoon, then bake on a high shelf for about 10–12 minutes, or until golden. Then take them out of the oven and leave the biscuits to harden on the baking sheet for 2–3 minutes, before quickly removing them to a wire cooling tray to cool. Repeat with the second batch. Next, melt the chocolate in a basin over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. This will take about 5–10 minutes. Place the cooled Florentines base-up on the wire rack and, using a teaspoon, coat the underside of each Florentine with warm melted chocolate and spread over the base. Now leave the Florentines to cool completely.
To make the chocolate sponge, preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
Put the cocoa powder into a bowl and pour the hot coffee over the top. Whisk until combined, then set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Once cooled, add a 1/4 of the cooled coffee mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and butter using an electric mixer, until gravel like. Add the remaining cocoa/coffee mixture, scraping the bottom of the bowl well. Add the eggs and coffee mixture in three parts, scraping well each time to ensure everything is incorporated. Make sure there are no yellow flecks of butter, as these will show once the cake is baked.
Scrape the mixture into the tins. They should weigh around 900-1000g each.
Bake in the oven until a skewer comes out clean- around 45 minutes.
Once removed, leave in the tins until completely cool, then gently remove and leave on a wire rack. Remember, these cakes are extremely moist so try not to be too rough with them.
To make the caramel, combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan off the heat. Combine them thoroughly, and use a pastry brush dipped in water to get rid of any granules of sugar on the sides of the pan. You can also do this during cooking if you need to.
Start the heat quite low and slowly turn it up. Cook without stirring until it’s the colour of a copper penny and almost smells burnt.
Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream, slowly stirring with a wooden spoon. Add in the butter and stir until melted. Strain the caramel through a sieve to make sure it’s nice and smooth.
To make the buttercream, beat the butter and half of the icing sugar until smooth and then add in the milk. Once it’s combined add in the rest of the icing sugar, and then slowly the caramel and beat until combined.
To make the hazelnut spikes, gently push the skewers into the hazelnuts, making sure it’s not on the seam of the nut so that it doesn’t split. Tape a large piece of baking paper on the floor next to the work surface you’re going to tape the skewers to.
Heat the sugar and water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan without stirring until the sugar is dissolved it comes to the boil. Swirl the caramel occasionally until a medium amber colour.
Take off the heat and swirl the hazelnuts round in the caramel until generously coated. Tape the sticks to the work surface and allow to drip downwards, creating a long spike. Allow to cool.
If the spikes snap, light a match, gently heat the end and stick the snapped line of caramel back on.
To assemble the cake, cut the tops so that they are flat. Place onto your serving dish and spread about 3 tbsp of the buttercream onto the sponge. Use a small palette knife to spread over the sponge. Pour 2 tbsp of the carmel on top, and sprinkle with one of the handfuls of chopped roasted hazelnuts. Repeat with the second layer. Add the third layer, ice the entire cake with the buttercream and place in the fridge. After 10 mins, remove and repeat. Then pour the rest of the caramel on top, pushing to the edges so it spills over. Push one edge of the florentines into the top of the cake – I did 12, one for each of our guests. Arrange the hazelnut spikes in the centre. You can refrigerate until you need to serve or do so right away. Enjoy! x