Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Dried Cherries
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 cup dried sweet cherries
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons brandy
10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate -- chopped
10 ounces butter -- at room temperature
1 2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs -- at room temperature, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup water
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom
with a round of parchment and butter the paper.
Put the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the skins crack
and loosen and the nuts are golden, about 12-15 minutes. Wrap the hot nuts in a
kitchen towel and firmly rub them together to loosen most of the skins. Discard
the skins. Let nuts cool. In a food processor, grind enough of the hazelnuts to
make 1/2 cup ground nuts. Chop the remaining nuts and set aside for garnish.
Put the cherries in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Soak until
softened, about 15 minutes. Drain well and chop half of the cherries. Put the
chopped cherries in a bowl and add the 3 tablespoons brandy. Melt 6 ounces of
the chopped chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
Using an electric mixer, cream 6 ounces of the butter with 1 cup of sugar until
fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the yolks one at a time. Beat in the cherries
in brandy and the vanilla. Add the flour and ground nuts and mix until well
combined. Gently stir in the melted chocolate.
In a large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium speed
until they mound slightly. Increase the speed to high and gradually beat in
the 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue beating until the whites hold soft peaks.
Fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter to lighten; then fold
in the remaining whites until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared
pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven until the center springs back when
lightly pressed with a finger, 35-40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven.
Cool in the pan on a rack.
While cake is cooling prepare the brandy syrup, put the remaining 2/3 cup sugar
and the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil for 30
seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool. When cool, stir in the
remaining 1/3 cup brandy.
For the chocolate glaze, melt the remaining 4 1/2 ounces of chopped chocolate
with the remaining 4 ounces of butter in a double boiler.
Unmold the cake onto the rack and peel off the paper. Leave the cake inverted so
that the flat bottom faces up. Brush the top and sides of the cake with 1/4 cup
of the brandy syrup. Add the unchopped cherries to the remaining syrup. Save
these also for the garnish.
Put cake rack on to a cookie sheet. Pour the warm chocolate glaze over the cake
and spread it evenly over the top and sides. Chill until it is set.
Cut the cake into wedges. Spoon some of the brandy syrup and cherries around
each serving. Top with chocolate curls and the chopped nuts.