Hazelnut cake called Gateau russe is delicate sheet cake filled with praline buttercream & is one of the classics of French pastry world. This cake is perfect for any occasion, especially with a larger gathering. This cake has a rich, nutty flavour that’s complemented by a light and fluffy texture.
What is Gateau Russe (hazelnut cake) and it’s origins
Praline….yes you are right, we are speaking French today. Today, I am going to teach you about the most amazing, fluffy, succulent, creamy, hazel-nutty dessert, which is called in French “Gateau Russe” or I call it simply praline squares.
I don’t think, I am going to have a time to explain the exact origins of this dessert, because it goes way too back in the time of the Kings and Queens. Circa 15th century and we would be sitting here for 2 days, if I would have to write down the whole story. And I don’t really want to waste your time, considering that this dessert is a bit more complicated, than a bundt cake, and it might be suited more for advanced bakers with some experience.
Thus saying this, I am not trying to discourage brave bakers, who are just stepping in the world of baking, but just a little warning, that this recipe requires few extra steps, then baking a cake with buttercream, and it might look little overwhelming how much time-consuming it is. But at the end, all this work is just so worth 🙂 You will end up with a high class dessert, that everybody will talk about for years.
So I am still going to brief you a bit, what kind of dessert is Gateau Russe: It is a French dessert, made out of extremely soft; almost airy hazelnut sponge, filled with luscious praline cream and dusted with confectionery sugar.
As I already mentioned, it is fairly difficult for a beginner baker, because of its numerous steps, but I will try to ease these steps for you.
How to make hazelnut sponge cake
Prepare sheet cake
You will need a lot of eggs, but literally a lot of eggs, in numbers 17 eggs. Please don’t freak out, it will be worth the cost. Precisely, you will need 17 egg whites and 5 egg yolks, so the rest of the egg yolks could be used for egg quiche or very high protein breakfast.
I know the number of eggs had freaked me out too, the first time I was trying to achieve this dessert, but this is why the sponge is so airy and heavenly soft. It’s all because of the big amount of egg whites.
Ground almonds and hazelnuts
Nut, nuts, nuts….there are two kinds of nuts used in this recipe and it’s almonds and hazelnuts. The ration is half-and-half. Almond meal or ground almonds are now very easily found in any grocery store, but ground hazelnuts are a bit harder to find, at least at my place. So What I do, I take whole hazelnuts and I roast them on a baking sheet, 177 C/ 350 F for about 10 – 15 minutes, and then I grind them in a food processor. While you roast them, you dry them, and it’s easier to grind the whole nuts.
Start with preheating oven to 177 C/ 350 F and line 3 regular baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients (except confectioner sugar), add milk and combine well. Set aside.
Whip egg whites
Egg whites….now you have to bring the good stand mixer in the game, because mixing in hand 17 egg whites is a lot of work and I don’t recommend it for this kind of baking. Your stand mixer will do the job for you. Use a very large bowl, if you have, and beat the egg whites on high speed until it almost reaches soft peaks. Now it’s the time to add confectioner sugar. You have to use confectioner or powdered or icing sugar, not the fine granulated sugar. We want to have our sponge to be the fluffiest on earth.
Fold all the batter together
Once you have added gradually confectioner sugar, mix on high for 5 minutes, until you reach nice rich white peaks. Now start taking 1/3 of the hazelnut mixture and add in your egg whites mixture, mix on very low speed. Add a second batch of 1/3 of the hazelnut mixture and continue mixing on low speed. Then add the last 1/3 of the hazelnut mixture and mix slowly until everything is well combine. Spread the mixture over 3 baking sheets 9″ x 13″, covered with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven, 170 C / 355 F for 10–12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Use a toothpick to make sure, is fully baked. Allow the sponge to cool down and then remove the parchment paper.
How to make praline buttercream
Praline cream is one of the most delicious and luscious creams you will ever taste. It is made out of praline paste (mix of nuts and caramelized sugar), butter, egg yolks and sugar syrup.
First you have to combine sugar and water in a small pan and simmer on medium heat until reaches 121 C / 250 F. Let stand for a minute (but not more than that, sugar will crystallize very quickly).
In the meanwhile, beat the egg yolks on high speed, until a nice white rich texture is reached. Add the warm sugar syrup slowly and mix until the mixture will cool down to room temperature. Add softened butter and praline paste and mix until soft texture is reached.
Assemble the hazelnut sheet cake
Separate the praline cream on 3 equal parts in the bowl. Take your 3 sponge biscuits and place the first biscuit on a baking sheet and spread 1/3 of the praline cream on it. Cover it with the second biscuit and continue with the third one and finish with a thin layer of cream on the top. Sprinkle with icing sugar and let cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
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HAZELNUT SHEET CAKE (GATEAU RUSSE)
For the sponge cake
- 125 g (1 cup) almonds in powder
- 125 g (1 cup) hazelnuts in powder
- 250 g (1 cup) fine granulated sugar
- 100 g ( 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 135 ml (1/2 cup) milk 2%
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 590 g egg whites or 19 large eggs separated only white eggs
- 100 g (1 cup) powdered sugar
For the Praline cream
- 80 g egg yolk 5 large egg yolks
- 200 g (3/4 cup) fine granulated sugar
- 60 ml (4 tbsp) cold water
- 200 g (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) softened butter
- 2-3 tablespoons praline paste
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar for dusting on top of the cream
For the sponge cake
- Preheat the oven to 177 C/ 350 F and line 3 regular baking sheets with dimensions 9" x 13", with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients, ground almonds, hazelnuts, salt, fine granulated sugar and flour (except powdered sugar), add milk to the bowl and stir well with a plastic spatula to make a nutty paste. Set aside.125 g (1 cup) almonds in powder, 125 g (1 cup) hazelnuts in powder, 100 g ( 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour, 135 ml (1/2 cup) milk 2%, ½ teaspoon salt, 250 g (1 cup) fine granulated sugar
- In a large bowl of standing mixer with whisk attachment, place 19 egg whites and whisk first at low speed. Once the egg whites start creating a foam (mousse), increase the speed to high and whisk until the egg whites almost reach the peaks. At this point, slow down the speed and start adding slowly powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, whisk on high speed until you reach nice rich white peaks.590 g egg whites, 100 g (1 cup) powdered sugar
- Take a ⅓ of the nutty paste and add it to the whisked egg whites. Mix with the whisk attachment on very low speed. Continue adding slowly the other ⅓ of the nutty paste and continue mixing. Now add the last ⅓ of the nutty paste and mix it in on low speed, until everything is well combine.
- Divide the batter in three equal portions and spread each portion of the batter over 3 baking sheets with dimensions 9" x 13", covered with parchment paper. Bake on 177 C / 355 F for 10–12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top. Insert a toothpick to make sure, it is fully baked. Allow the biscuits to cool down before removing parchment paper on the bottom.
For the Praline cream
- In the next two steps, you will have to work simultaneously. While the sugar with the water will be simmering on the stove in step no.1, you must start step no.2 beating the egg yolks.
- In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water. Bring the mixture into a simmer over medium high heat, until the candy thermometer reaches 121 C/250 F. Let the syrup stand for a few seconds, so it has a time to cool down a bit, but not too long, otherwise the sugar will start crystallizing (keeps stirring with spatula) and it will be difficult to add it to the creamed egg yolks.200 g (3/4 cup) fine granulated sugar, 60 ml (4 tbsp) cold water
- While you are simmering the sugar with water on the stove, start beating egg yolks on high speed, until they are creamy white & rich in texture (about 5-7 minutes). Continue beating the eggs yolks on high speed and slowly add the sugar syrup. Whisk on high speed until the egg yolks and the sugar syrup will cool down to room temperature.80 g egg yolk
- Add softened butter spoon by spoon and praline paste. Mix until you reach soft & creamy cream. Separate the praline cream on 3 equal parts in the bowl.200 g (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) softened butter, 2-3 tablespoons praline paste
- Take the 3 baked biscuits and place the first biscuit on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread 1/3 of the praline cream with offset spatula on the biscuit. Cover with the second biscuit and spread the second ⅓ of praline cream. Cover with the third biscuit and finish with a final layer of cream on the top.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and let cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Once it's well chilled, cut with a sharp knife on squares and serve with coffee or tea.1 tablespoon powdered sugar