Yellow Cake with Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling & Chocolate Frosting

Happy Birthday to my sister, Lauren!!

After I started taking my cake decorating classes, my sister asked if I would make (and decorate, of course) a cake for her birthday. Of course I said yes! Then she saw the drunk clown cake and demanded that a drunk clown grace the top of her cake. Haha, okay, of course that can be done! Err, so I thought. I was pretty pressed for time yesterday and I didn’t want to chance a clown catastrophe, so instead I gave her a cake of crooked writing and a martini glass. That’s drunk, right? 😉

Oh, and I added polka dots to the sides:

When I asked what flavors she wanted she said a yellow cake, chocolate frosting, and some type of hazelnut-flavored filling. The cake is a classic yellow cake, made using the Fluffy Yellow Cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (recipes for the cake, filling, and frosting follow below). I decided to torte the layers for a more “sophisticated” cake, and between them is a very thin layer of chocolate frosting topped with a hazelnut ganache.

I was really happy with this cake except that I would have poured the ganache into the cake and let it set there instead of at room temperature, as it got a little too hard and was nearly impossible to work with between the cake layers. Everyone thought that the flavors of the cake were great, and said it was really rich, so if you want to make something a little less rich, I would suggest not torting the layers and instead going with a traditional 2-layer cake.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 to 22 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


For the Cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk , room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks , room temperature
3 large egg whites , room temperature

For the Hazelnut Ganache:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons hazelnut liquor

For the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

3. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

5. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

To make the Hazelnut Ganache: Microwave chocolate until almost completely melted; remove from the microwave and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth and completely melted. Whisk in the heavy cream, and then the liquor. Cool (but do not let set) before using as a filling.

To make the Chocolate Frosting: Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.
(I doubled the recipe for this cake)

(Recipe for the cake was adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March 2008 issue; recipe for the Chocolate Frosting was adapted from Hershey's )


29 Responses to “Yellow Cake with Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling & Chocolate Frosting”

  1. katie102006 on May 1, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Chelley! It turned out so great! Looks absolutely wonderful!


  2. Kate on May 1, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Your sister has excellent taste in flavors!


  3. sharon @ newlywedcook on May 1, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Yum. I’m actually off to the airport to visit my brother for his birthday. Sadly, I have no cake in tow. I won’t show him this post 🙂


  4. Tammy on May 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    that looks great!!!! it is amazing how the simple techniques taught at the class can give such a great result!!! My sister has also asked me to make a cake for her birthday at the end of May!


  5. kayte on May 1, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    oh wow! what a great looking cake! i really need to take these classes. it looks wonderful.


  6. Birthday girl!! on May 1, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    best birthday cake ever! It was just me, the cake, and a fork tonight after dinner. Can’t be good for the figure!! Worth every bite though. Love you mucho!


  7. Erin on May 1, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Your cake skills are getting pretty good! I love the martini glass. And the hazelnut ganache sounds so tasty. Have a fun weekend!


  8. Nikki on May 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    very cute!


  9. Annie on May 3, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Oooh, Chelle, this looks great! I love the combo of yellow cake with the Hershey’s chocolate frosting. Perfect! And I think your decorating looks awesome. I hope you have a wonderful vacation. Can’t wait to hear all about it!


  10. michelle on May 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    hazelnut chocolate, my favorite. i’ll take this same cake for my birthday.

    your piping is so perfect! i’m very jealous.


  11. Melissa on May 5, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Wow! Your cake looks great! So smooth and I love the border and the dots!


  12. Amber on May 6, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Awesome looking cake, I am sure your sister just loved it. I just want to mess up the perfectly looking frosting by licking the cake. 🙂


  13. Jaime on May 6, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    mmmmm that looks sinfully delicious! how fun that you are taking classes now 🙂 it’s a beautiful cake!


  14. Gigi on May 7, 2008 at 12:36 am

    looks like a really delicious birthday cake! yummy :p


  15. Jackie on May 12, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Vanilla and hazelnut – sounds like a great combo, thanks! Your cake looks like it turned out perfect, too. Hope everyone enjoyed!


  16. Heidi on May 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Wow! The cake looks awesome!!


  17. cubicleinclaremont on July 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    this looks delicious….it definitely beats a store-bought cake any day!


  18. Brenda on June 4, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Hi – Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I made the yellow cake with chocolate ganache (withn amaretto instead of frangelico) and my recipe for buttercream icing for a friend’s engagement dinner party and it turned out to be so good. I’m planning on using the cake and ganache recipe again for my daughter’s birthday party cake 🙂


  19. Mrs Addamo on July 30, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Love your Hazelut frosting, definitely will try in one of my cake !!


  20. Jen on August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Another question….what do you think about frostings that use shortening vs. butter? Kind of grosses me out but Wilton uses it.



    • Michelle on August 13th, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Hi Jen, The frostings that use shortening are typically to keep them “structured”, which you need if you’re doing a full-on decorated cake with flowers and things like that. For a “regular” cake like this, or a birthday cake you just want to throw frosting on and maybe pipe a nice border or writing, the ones with just butter are more than okay.


  21. Anna on November 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Help! I am a scatterbrain! I tried to make this last night and dumped all the sugar in with the dry ingredients. I pressed onward only to have trouble separating the eggs well enough to stiffen the egg whites. The egg whites didn’t stiffen (I think I know why) and I didn’t have any cream of tartar so I gave up. I’m going to try again but my question is this: will it just be a little sweeter with the extra 1/4 of sugar or will it ruin the cake? I went through a lot eggs and butter already, so I hate to start from scratch. Any suggestions are appreciated! I love this blog!


    • Michelle on November 20th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Anna, I apologize but I don’t really understand your question. Where is the extra 1/4 cup of sugar? In general though, I don’t think it should cause much of a problem.


      • Anna on November 20th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

        I dumped the whole 1 3/4 sugar in the dry ingredients instead of saving the 1/4 cup for the egg whites. Thanks for your prompt reply!


        • Michelle on November 22nd, 2011 at 8:19 pm

          I think you would be okay to go ahead with the extra 1/4 cup, it shouldn’t cause it too be too sweet.


          • Anna on November 22nd, 2011 at 9:29 pm

            It didn’t end up too sweet! I also found out on the web that white vinegar will substitute for cream of tartar, if you’re having trouble with the egg whites stiffening. It made mine a little bit peakier but definitely not stiff. It ended up moist and tasty but with the texture and density of pound cake and not fluffy. I dunno if this will help anyone but I thought I’d share! Thanks again!


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  23. Teri on March 10, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Hi Michelle,
    I made this cake for my grandfather’s birthday last weekend and it was fabulous. I have to bring 2 dozen cupcakes to a baby shower in a couple of weeks and I’d love to use this cake recipe. Have you ever used this recipe for cupcakes? I was just wondering if it would work.


    • Michelle on March 11th, 2013 at 12:43 am

      Hi Teri, I have not made this into cupcakes, but if you do, I’d love to hear how they turned out!


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