Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & swiss meringue

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Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

This chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream is the cake I am making for a friend’s wedding this month. The cake sponge is a devil’s food cake recipe that is dense and very chocolatey. The filling is a Nutella ganache with roasted hazelnuts and the frosting is a light swiss meringue buttercream.

I will make it big enough to serve 80 people and build two tiers. The bride wanted lemon and raspberry flavours but the groom wanted Nutella involved, so I told them they couldn’t have both. They agreed to settle on the latter and so I conceptualized the cake I would make.

Having done a delicious Nutella ganache in my second cookbook sweet, I knew I would modify that for the filling. I also wanted to try the Magnolia Bakery Devils Food cake for the sponge component because it’s a spectacular recipe and I’m a long-time fan of this cute and iconic bakery in NYC.

Because it was a wedding and the cake was going to be very rich, I decided on a modified Swiss meringue buttercream to cover the outside. It has a silky smooth texture that is a dream to work with, perfect for a wedding cake and is not cloyingly sweet like a buttercream frosting.

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

This was the trial cake I made and comprises 3 layers of sponge and is the full recipe from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. It will also be the top tier of the actual wedding cake. I’m going triple the recipe in total to get me to the final wedding cake. After much Googling and research, I have established that this is the size cake that will feed 80 people.

*PS I tripled this recipe and made one large 3-tiered cake as the base using 3 x 30cm cake tins. I then made the top cake as per this recipe which was a 3 x 23cm cake tier. I put the top 3-tiered cake on a thin board the same diameter as the cake and propped this up with 3 sticks so that it wouldn’t sink into the cake below.

I have no problem with the baking, assembly and icing part of the cake. Even though I have never made such a big cake before, I follow enough cake makers on Instagram to know how it’s all done. Watching cake-icing videos is therapeutic for me and I have all the equipment.

What I am very stressed about is transporting such a huge cake in my mini over two hours out of Cape Town in summer. Visions of them toppling over as I ascend up Sir Lowry’s pass have crossed my mind, so I have decided to assemble the cake on-site at the wedding venue. I keep telling myself that I have worked on over 90 TV shoots on location so putting together a cake will actually be child’s play for me. 

I will update the post with all the details and quantities for the bigger cake in case you want to make a wedding cake for someone in the future. Or any celebration for that matter. This cake may seem daunting but when you break it down into separate components and make it over two days, it’s really very manageable. 

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

I took this cake to the bridal couple for a tasting and they seemed very happy with the outcome. They particularly liked the chopped-up roasted hazelnuts I added to the ganache which gives this cake an amazing texture and amplifies the hazelnut flavour.

A few notes on the Swiss meringue buttercream. I find the quantity of butter that goes into a Swiss meringue a little too intense so I lowered the ratio slightly it is better to use unsalted butter here which MUST be at room temperature or even slightly softer. So room temperature of a warm day.

I also found I needed to add a lot of vanilla for the flavour to come through so I added at least a tablespoon of vanilla extract but might even go a little more for the final wedding cake. I used a paste with vanilla beans, as I like the look of the tiny black flecks in the final frosting. You could go all out and use vanilla seeds from a pod, but you will need quite a few.

I always use salted butter in my cakes so I don’t add additional salt. I still can’t understand cake recipes that always call for expensive unsalted butter and then add salt back in. I have baked extensively with both salted and unsalted butter and can’t notice any textural difference and the flavour difference is unnoticeable in most cakes, especially chocolate. Salt amplifies sugar so I actually think it’s an important component in cakes and desserts. I generally do not add additional salt if I’m using salted butter.

Cooks notes 1 – I’ve converted this cake into metric measurements as it’s the only accurate way to bake. Scooping flour into a cup is so risky and the quantities can vary so much so I prefer not to do it. It is the part about most American baking recipes that drives me nuts.

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

 Recipe – makes one large 3-tier cake that will serve 20 – 25 people – adapted from Magnolia Bakery

Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

A decadent and chocolatey Devil's food cake with Nuttel and roasted hazelnut ganache with swiss meringue buttercream makes a perfect wedding or celebration cake.
Print Recipe
Chocolate cake with hazelnut ganache & vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream
Prep Time:1 hour
Cook Time:35 minutes



  • 360 gm flour 3 cups
  • tsp baking powder
  • tsp baking soda
  • 170 gm salted butter 11/2 sticks or ¾ cup *if you are using unsalted butter then add in ¾ tsp salt
  • 380 gm sugar 2 cups – I used half white and half firmly packed dark brown sugar (the original recipe calls for 2 cups light brown sugar)
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 250 gm dark chocolate 70%  9 oz
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Nutella hazelnut ganache:

  • 250 ml cream
  • 180 gm chocolate – 70%
  • ½ cup + ¼ cup Nutella
  • 80 gm-toasted hazelnuts chopped

Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 3 large free-range egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 200 gm room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract


To make the cake:

  • Grease or line 3 x 23cm (9inch) springform cake pans (I always line with baking paper and then spray the baking paper with non-stick baking spray).
  • Melt the chocolate by placing it over a double boiler and then allow it to cool to lukewarm, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder and baking soda together.
  • Separate the eggs and add the whites to the bowl of a stand mixer whisk until firm peaks. Remove and set aside in another bowl.
  • In the same stand mixer bowl, beat the butter for a minute and then add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes until fluffy.
  • Add each egg yolk one at a time and ensure the mix is well beaten before adding the next. Continue to beat for another 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and the cooled chocolate and beat until well combined.
  • With the mixer on slow, add the flour and milk in 3 parts mixing well before adding the next batch. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula and ensure it's well combined but do not over-mix.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the beaten egg whites, gently fold these through until well incorporated.
  • Divide the mix evenly amongst the 3-lined cake pans and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the cakes are done. To test whether they are done they will be springy to the touch, have come away from the sides slightly and when a sharp knife is inserted into the middle of the cake it will come out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in the cake tins for an hour. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.


  • To make the ganache, roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 180C / 350F for about 15 minutes watching closely to ensure they don’t over-brown. This can be done in advance. Finely chop the nuts and set aside.
  • Heat the cream in a microwave-proof bowl (not metal) and then add the chocolate. Keep stirring until it is melted. If it doesn’t melt, pop it back into the microwave for a few seconds to heat up. Once it’s melted, add ½ cup of Nutella and stir through until it is smooth. Allow this to cool in the fridge.
  • When you are ready to assemble the cake, remove the ganache from the fridge (I normally only leave it thin the fridge for about an hour) then whip it up using an electric beater (handheld is easiest) and then add the remaining ¼ cup Nutella. Add the chopped hazelnuts and mix through.

Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • Balance the bowl of your stand mixer over a pot of boiling water ensuring the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Add the egg whites and sugar and stir and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches a temperature of 71C / 160F. You can also check if the sugar has dissolved by rubbing the mixture between your two fingers and that there are no granules.
  • Transfer the bowl back to the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat for about 7 minutes until white and fluffy. Switch out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment (you want to try and take some of the air out now) and slowly add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time ensuring the butter is well mixed before adding in the next piece. Once it is thick and fluffy, add the vanilla extract and turn it down to a low speed and mix for a minute or two to get even more of the air out.
  • To assemble the cake, place the first layer of cake on your serving dish. Divide the ganache in two and put spread half evenly over the first layer. Put the second cake layer and then the remaining half of the ganache. Top this with the third cake layer.
  • Using a small amount of the Swiss meringue, cover the cake very lightly. This is the crumb coat and the cake should still be visible through the icing. Then put the cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. Then cover the cake with the remaining frosting and evenly spread it around the sides and the top using a spatula or cake scraper. I also find using a cake wheel very useful here. Decorate as you desire.
  • I decorated this cake with a few wildflower leaves, Penny Gums and babies breathe because I love the look of a wedding. A few thin olive leaves on the branch would also be lovely. For the wedding, I'm going to use a few pieces of foliage from the bride's table arrangement and bouquet so that everything matches. 


If you make the swiss meringue the day before, whip it up on the day you decorate it with an electric whisk.
Servings: 20
Author: Sam Linsell




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  1. I LOVE chocolate and hazelnuts together! This cake looks dreamy and so delicious!

  2. Hi, Nutella is very runny so it’s easy to measure it in a cup measurement. Easier than weighing. I have not weighed this out.

  3. I made this last night, and was devastated when the cakes fell – one while still in the oven, and the other after I opened the oven to check for readiness, after 35 mins. Any ideas as to why this could have happened? They smell divine, and I’m going to make a plan B to still use them rather than toss them, but would like to know for next time (because I really would like there to be a next time!). Thanks for great recipes, I love your site!

  4. Hi Kerry. I’m really sorry to hear the recipe didn’t work out for you and it’s difficult to know exactly what went wrong as I wasn’t in your kitchen. I can only think that something went wrong with the mixing. Either the batter was overmixed or the egg whites were not incorporated properly or perhaps the chocolate was added to warm etc. It’s quite a delicate sponge – almost mousse-like so you would need to follow the technique exactly as mentioned in the recipe instructions. All ingredients at room temperature. Chocolate must be cooled, the better not overworked etc.

  5. Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly. I’ll take that all on board and try again. Do you think it would work as well with white chocolate?

  6. HI Kerry. No I would definitely not make this cake with white chocolate. Its a totally different animal and is cloyingly sweet vs the 70% of dark chocolate. Rather look for another white chocolate cake recipe. personally, I would make a white cake and then add a white chocolate ganache or frosting if you want a white choc vibe. White chocolate is very difficult to temper in my opinion so be careful.

  7. Thank you so much 🙂

  8. ,,, took all your advice to heart, and they look fantastic! 😉

  9. Hi Sam?do you use granulated sugar or castor sugar for the cake batter?…thank u

  10. HI Vangie – I used granulated white and brown sugar

  11. Hi Sam, will milk chocolate work in the cake?

  12. Hi Judene and sorry for the late reply I was in Italy. I never use milk chocolate in a ganache as there is not a lot of chocolate solids. You could try but I don’t think it would work as well

  13. Aphrodite says:

    Hello! Do you have any other recipe for buttercream frosting as i am afraid that the swiss meringue one is a bit tricky..

  14. Aphrodite says:

    Hello! I was wondering whether you have any other white buttercream frosting recipe you would suggest goes with this cake, as the swiss meringue one seems a bit tricky.. or if you dont have, any other tips for making the meringue? And without using a thermometer…

  15. Hello. I give quite a lot of explanation on how to make the swiss meringue buttercream but there are a plethora of videos on the internet. I like this frosting as its not so sweet so it balances the very sweet ganache. I think a regular buttercream would be too sweet with this cake. I do have on my blog though.

  16. Is using a springform pan necessary or can I use a regular 9 inch cake pan?

  17. Hi Callie, a springform just makes it so much easier to take out but if you line a cake tin it should be fine to remove the cake

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hey Sam! I would love to make this cake but I’m afraid it’ll make too much for someone who lives alone. Can this recipe be halved easily? What would you recommend?

  19. Hi – This cake is a large celebration cake and I haven’t done a smaller one. The recipe calls for 3 eggs so you will need 1.5 or just keep it at 2 eggs. All other ingredients can simply be divided into two.

  20. Jennifer Martin says:

    Hi Sam, can this cake be frozen? Say I want to make the cake a week before my event. Then just make the icing and decorate on the day?
    Thank you

  21. Hi Jennifer, you can totally freeze the cake. Just wrap it very well and then thaw at room temperature and ice. Cake freezes very well.

  22. Hi Margaret – I havent tested it with SR flour but it should be fine if you take out the baking powder.

  23. Hello, do you know how I can convert the measurements in this recipe to make a 3 tier cake with a 10”, 8”, and a 6” tier? Each tier would have 3 cake layers..

  24. Hi Luise – I’m afraid I haven’t converted it exactly like that. You will need to google and look at my pan sizes and try and fiddle. sorry. I have supplied as much info as I can on the volume of the cake

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Sam,

    I was really disappointed in how dry my cakes turned out even though I followed the recipe to a T. I baked them for 30min and they were dry as a bone. I loved the ganache recipe though.

  26. Hi Elizabeth Im, sorry this happened and I’m not sure what went wrong. Did you perhaps use cup measurements? This is always a bad idea when baking as it’s just not accurate and why I converted to metric. The recipe for the cake comes directly from Magnolia bakery in NYC and it’s a tried and tested recipe. The conversion is 100% accurate (you can google). Perhaps your oven temp was too high? That is all I can think of.

  27. Does this cake need to be refrigerated due to the meringue?

  28. Hi Meagan, Swiss meringue will harden if it is refrigerated. You can keep it out for a few days. Just note as it has such a high butter content it will harden in the ffrindge. You can store it in the fridge and then bring it to room temperature later to eat.

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