Arral Cake – Apricot, Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate, Balsamic

Arral cake: Apricot syrup, hazelnut and almond cake with woody chocolate sponge, rich, eggy pastry cream and balsamic-lightened ganache. My own constructed cake… Does it sound fancy? 😛

zoom in!

I made this cake in about two days:

  • Day one – make pastry cream, ganache, syrup and chocolate sponge
  • Day two – make nut sponge, and build cake

naked cakedressed cake

As you can see, after I stacked all the cake layers, I trimmed the sides so they were completely straight (of course, I couldn’t let the trimmings go to waste, so I ate them graciously… 😛 )

This cake is very rich. Because I wanted the pastry cream to hold the weight of the cakes, I used mostly double cream, with some milk. You can use just milk, or normal cream, or whatever you like. Double cream is very thick, so if you have difficulty measuring it, just zap it in the microwave to warm it up a bit and melt the fat.


And yes, I used an eyedropper for the apricot flavouring. I had bought the flavouring while travelling, and it’s meant for chocolate flavouring so it’s much more concentrated than normal flavouring.


Now that my notes are out of the way, let’s settle down for: A Tale of Three Egg-Foam Cakes (two today, one to follow).

The egg-foam method uses mechanical leavening (you incorporate air into your batter with a beater) rather than chemical (sodium bicarbonate reacts with acid, causing effervescence in the batter). When the batter is cooked, water evaporates and steam fills the air-pockets, expanding as it increases in volume (PV = nRT if anyone cares…)

When the batter cooks, the proteins coagulate, stabilising the cake (flour is normally used as the ‘cement’). You can see this most clearly in meringues, which most simply are just sugar and egg white.

Yolks add fat, making the cake creamier and, if there is flour, preventing gluten formation.

Sugar tenderises so that the cake doesn’t end up like an overcooked egg, all rubbery. As well as this, when you beat it with egg yolk, the sugar granules melt into a syrup, stabilising the bigger bubbles so you end up with a sponge, rather than just a baked chocolate mousse, which is less flexible.

Normally, oil is added to moisten the cake, but you can leave it out – you’ll end up with a dry-ish cake that’s perfect for absorbing generous lashings of cake syrup.

In the chocolate recipe here, the melted chocolate makes the texture more silky (and adds flavour….)

Cream of tartar stabilises the egg white so it doesn’t collapse.

Ground almonds and hazelnuts can add flavour, while also making the sponge denser, and they add some oil, increasing moistness.

If you go back in time, you’ll notice I used a flourless egg-foam cake in my bûche de noël. That recipe had egg whites, cream (fat to replace the missing yolks, and to add taste), sugar, and rum (this adds some liquid, but is mostly for taste).

So that’s that. Let’s move on to the recipe and get cooking!

Apricot Hazelnut Chocolate Birthday Layer Cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: medium, but tedious
  • Print

Pastry Cream

from Joe Pastry

  • 220mL milk
  • 250mL double cream
  • 100g sugar
  • 6 yolks
  • 1g cornstarch
  • Vanilla
  1. Beat the yolks and sugar to a thick ribbon.
  2. Slowly add the cornstarch to the yolks, beating constantly.
  3. In a saucepan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla to a boil.
  4. Beat the cream into the yolks, and then return to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  5. Hold the boil for 30 seconds and then remove from heat.
  6. Cool completely, with clingwrap touching the surface to prevent skin formation.


  • 400g chocolate
  • 20g butter
  • 2Tbs balsamic vinegar or red wine
  1. Melt the butter and half the chocolate over the stove.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the remaining chocolate, and then the vinegar.
  4. Cool.


  • 60g sugar
  • 60mL water
  • 1.6mL apricot flavouring (or any other flavouring – add it to taste)
  1. Heat the water and sugar on the stove until sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir in flavouring.
  3. Cool completely.

Chocolate Sponge

from Joe Pastry

  • 85g chocolate
  • 3 yolks
  • 25g sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 25g extra sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Melt the chocolate.
  2. Beat the yolks and 25g sugar until thick and fluffy.
  3. Stir the chocolate into the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and 25g sugar to stiff peaks.
  5. Stir the egg white foam into the chocolate yolk batter (you may have to reheat the chocolate in the microwave, carefully).
  6. Pour batter into a greased and lined 24 x 24cm tin.
  7. Cook for 15 minutes at 180°C.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from tin.
  9. Dust with cocoa, flip and dust on other side.
  10. Cool completely over rack.
  11. Cake can be frozen overnight.

Nut Sponge

from Joe Pastry

  • 90g almond meal
  • 130g hazelnut meal
  • 198g sugar
  • 35g flour
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Toast the almond meal and hazelnut meal on separate trays in the oven at 150°C until fragrant (the hazelnuts cooked faster than the almonds for me, so I removed them first).
  2. Measure out 85g almond meal and 128g hazelnut meal. Let cool.
  3. In a food processor, blend the nut meal, the sugar and the flour.
  4. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the egg, in batches (this is like a meringue, with added gluten…)
  6. Spread into two 24 x 24cm greased and lined tins.
  7. Bake at 220°C for 7 – 9 minutes until just golden brown.
  8. Cool in the pan.
  9. Keep overnight at room temperature.



from bottom to top:

Chocolate sponge, apricot syrup, pastry cream, nut sponge, pastry cream, nut sponge, ganache


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