Let me just start this off by saying that I love the word Gateau, and the more times I can use the word Gateau in a post, the happier I feel. Why? Because I just love the sound of the word rolling off my tongue. There is a sophistication to the word, something refined, that “cake” just doesn’t quite measure up. I mean just look at it. A Gateau is something posh people eat, at an upscale bakery, after a nice dinner out that a super talented pastry genius prepared. Gateau gets washed down with a nice strong cup of quality coffee or espresso if you will, and it is meant to be savored. Cake is something that comes out of a cardboard box or even worse a plastic container already baked and smothered in plastic icing. Unfortunately my particular monstrosity, or Franken-cake really has no place being called a gateau, now does it?


That first photo? The only salvageable piece of gateau-ness I could muster. The rest, mushy disaster.

This DB challenge started off with issues. There is the whole Filbert vs. Hazelnut deal. Lemme give it to you straight, they are not the same nut. First of all, Filbert sounds like the the guy in that comic about the world of cubicles- Dilbert. Ever since they started with this Filbert thing, I have been against it. Its like the checkers at the grocery store who look at my cilantro and ring it up as parsley. Or call a honeydew, cantaloupe. I was lulled into the lies too- thinking Filberts and Hazelnuts were the same. Unfortunately my mouth and tongue did not agree, when I bought a very expensive Filbert cake at Whole Foods years ago for my birthday (back when I didn’t bake) and my mouth itched the whole night immediately after taking one bite. Something that never happens when I eat something with “hazelnuts” in the ingredients. So what gives? I have had this discussion many times with different people and my conclusion is that Filbert is American and Hazelnut is European and that there must be a genetic variation somewhere!

That wasn’t the last time I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding these nuts as we will soon see….I was really excited about this gateau challenge because I just love anything with hazelnuts. I am a real sucker for them – I love them in chocolate, just plain as a nut, and my favorite way in gelato. I also love apricot so things were looking up. The only way I significantly changed the recipe was instead of using hazelnuts for the praline paste, I used pistachios. Roberto’s favorite nut – so it was a marriage between the favorite nuts in the family (pun totally intended!). I also had to add some white chocolate to the ganache, because I didn’t have enough regular. I was feeling pretty smug, not only was the cake coming along but, I also had a little leftover apricot preserves after making the glaze, so I made a simple syrup with that as a base for a fabulous cocktail –

Apricot – Hazelnut Gateau in a Glass (you’ll have to read through the rest of this, to get to that) 😉

I was feeling pretty good about things. All until last night when it came time to put the gateau together.


So, first problem arises when I was skimming through the directions and saw in the assembly section second paragraph:

” Spread the bottom layer with a 1/4 inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with 1/2 of the whipped cream”….

UM, whipped cream? Where did that come from? So I look through all sections, all ingredients, and the only heavy whipping cream I see is 6 oz. for the ganache…well, I don’t have extra heavy whipping cream lying about, so it was back to the store for me…oh joy. (later I realize my mistake! – oh and SUPER THANKS TO CHRIS FOR HELPING ME HERE!!!) 🙂

Next problem occurred after dividing the cake into 3 layers…my cake was a bit too thin for that, so it began to break apart, especially after adding the sugar syrup, which made it mushy. I had chunks falling away like bits of an iceberg breaking off. So I decided, hey, why don’t I make cute mini cakes…using my super cute cookie cutter?…that will fix everything!(ah, the innocence…) Well that second photo…that is what happened when I tried to cut the cake into cute little shapes. Luckily Roberto heard all the expletives flying from my mouth in the kitchen, so he came with his artistic eye and cut the nice “model” for the first photo into shape. The rest as they say, is history…

So was the cake worth all the pain and suffering? Roberto seemed to think so, although the only pain and suffering he experienced was licking the chocolate off the spatula and chomping on the deformed gateau lying about. So I am not sure I can count his vote. For me, it was just okay. I liked the idea of it better than it actually turned out. But I am happy because there are lots of cake scraps left and I can use them to make ice cream, like I did with the opera cake scraps! Yum…ice cream….

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
(Jenn calls it a Hazelnut Gateau with Pistachio Praline Buttercream)
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert (Hazelnut) Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks (ah, yes, here it IS) LOL!
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts (hazelnuts), toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert (Hazelnut) Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts (notice here it is being called hazelnut and not filbert???…not interchangeable people!!!), toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 -110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10 X 2 inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds.  Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture.You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar.  It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step.When finished, the mixture should be ribbony.  Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so.  Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hands working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter.Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.  **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter!  It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan.  Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan.Cool the cake completely.


*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup

Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake  split into 3 layers (I made a little extra for the ganache – because the ganache recipe calls for corn syrup and that stuff is something I never buy)

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur (I used the rum)

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.*Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream


1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1  – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream

4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice (I used Godiva Liquer)
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved.  The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue- about 5-7 minutes. *Do not over-beat*. Set aside

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not over-beat or the butter will become too soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute.  Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not over-beat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl-“ making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste


1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts (again with the hazelnuts…so I used Pistachios), toasted/skinless
2/3 cup sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet.  Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals.  If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides.Cook until the mixture starts to bubble.  **Remember extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor.  Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place.  Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm.If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze


Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm- great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled- can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid- the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup (corn syrup is evil so I made extra sugar syrup and used that instead)
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or dark Jamaican rum (optional) – I went for the rum again
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.


Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil.  Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate.  Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream.  Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake.Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake.  Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.


Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely.Chill while you prepare the ganache.


Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings.  Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center.  Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance.The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 “ 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream.Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting.  Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap.Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Now, if you have read all the way to this point, I will reward you with the ingredients for my special cocktail:

Apricot – Hazelnut Gateau in a Glass:

4 TBS Apricot simple syrup
1 shot vanilla vodka
1 shot frangelico
1/4 cup Tropicana Pure Mango, Papaya, Peach juice

shake together in a martini shaker and serve with a dried apricot garnish.

Apricot Simple Syrup

1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup water – pour this into preserves jar and shake all around
1/3 cup apricot juice or nectar
1/4 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until sugar is melted. Set aside until cool.