Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
If I could offer you a slice, I really would, if only to watch your reaction when tasting it. It was truly over-the-top decadent. See all those nuts clinging to the icing on the side (and perched on top)? Those aren't regular old hazelnuts, they are chunks of praline, which I baked the day before making the cake.
Making this dessert was not the easiest task I've taken on. It was the product of an entire evening's work that made use of almost every single kitchen device and baking sheet that I own. There might have also been a desperate trip to a bar at 11:30 p.m. upon discovering that I didn't actually have any Frangelico (a hazelnut liqueur) that was called for in the recipe. The bartender looked at me like I was entirely out of my mind, and reminded me that it was illegal to leave a bar with alcohol. I pulled out a tiny tupperware and whispered that nobody would ever know. Shortly thereafter, I skulked out empty-handed, ashamed at the new low to which I descended in the name of baking. In the end, I used Kahlua instead and it was delicious.
I think the best compliment I got was that it tasted "European". For some reason, if I've made a dessert taste European, I feel like I've struck gold. I also learned that shortly after my grandmother and uncle Peter arrived in Canada from the Soviet Union 30 years ago, they almost started a business of their own together whipping up tortes just like this. Apparently, their version of the torte was so good, friends and neighbors were accosting them to make more for every possible occasion. Soon, they were receiving orders from strangers, and making a nice buck in the process. They even went so far as to negotiate a deal with a grocery store chain, which was more than happy to bring them on as clients... but they didn't have the means to invest in a large-scale bakery that would make the project worth their time. Sad story. I would have loved to have cake makers in the family. That's one family business I would gladly take over in a second.