Follow the Hazelnut Brick Road: Chocolate Hazelnut Pavé

We needed a dessert to send off one of our office summer interns and I decided to make Nick Malgieri's "Chocolate Hazelnut Pavé" from Chocolate. I had some leftover homemade praline paste on hand (made with Tish Boyle's praline paste recipe from The Cake Book, using both hazelnuts and almonds) and it was the perfect amount required for the recipe.

The pavé is three layers of chocolate-hazelnut sponge cake brushed with sugar syrup and filled and covered with chocolate-hazelnut filling. The cake is a fatless sponge that you make by whipping egg yolks; adding brown sugar; folding in egg whites that have been beaten with salt and granulated sugar to firm peaks; and incorporating a sifted mixture of cocoa powder, flour, and ground hazelnuts. I poured the batter into a buttered and parchment-lined half sheet pan and put it in the oven to bake.

To make the filling, you beat butter until creamy; add praline paste; and mix in cooled ganache (hot cream and bittersweet chocolate). Because I made my own praline paste and didn't grind it completely smooth with a mortar and pestle, there were a few lumps of praline visible in the filling.
Before assembling the pavé I cut the sponge cake into three equal strips. You're supposed to cut it lengthwise to get three pieces that are each 4-inches wide by 18-inches long. I made my cuts in the other direction to end up with three strips that were each about 12-inches long by 5.5-inches wide (I trimmed my cake slightly to clean up the edges before dividing it into three pieces). I did this only because I was thinking ahead about how I would be able to transport the pavé to work and wanted the final cake to fit on a 10-inch by 14-inch cake board. I have larger cake boards that can be used to transport half-sheet cakes, but they would be much too wide for a cake that is only 4-inches across, and if you trim the boards the look bad because you lose the scalloped edge.

I brushed each piece of cake with sugar syrup (sugar and water brought to a boil, with alcohol and vanilla added; the recipe calls for rum but I used Frangelico instead) before spreading on some filling and stacking the layers on top of each other. I covered the entire cake with filling although I made the decision to trim up the short ends of the cake and leave them naked, i.e., not covered with frosting. I had enough filling to pipe borders around the top and bottom.
I loved this cake so much. I've been eating a lot of butter cake lately (a lot special occasions means a lot of butter cake) and it's been a while since I've made sponge cake. Far too long -- it was wonderful to be reminded how light and lovely it is. And the thing about this cake is that even though the filling was substantial -- ganache + praline paste + butter = very rich -- the dessert overall didn't seem heavy at all because the cake was so airy and light. The hazelnut flavor of the cake and frosting came through loud and clear and I actually quite liked the small lumps of praline in the filling. I do think that a very small slice of this cake is enough to satisfy -- and to that end, it does make sense to cut the cake into thinner, longer strips so that you end up with narrower pieces of cake. But it would be lovely any way you slice it.

Recipes: "Chocolate Hazelnut Pavé" from Chocolate by Nick Malgieri and "Praline Paste" from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.


Louise said…
This cake looks and sounds great. Worthy of any occasion. Nice that you had already prepared praline paste for another dessert.
Alia said…
Hi, I got the book Chocolate by Nick Malgieri a while ago from the library, and made this same recipe. However, because of the pandemic, I cannot get the book from the library anymore. Is there any way you could email this one recipe to me - I cannot find it anywhere on the internet. I would really appreciate it - my email is