A Treat for a Texan

Planning a surprise party is like organizing an elaborate meal – there’s prep work to ensure that everything goes smoothly, you have to know when and where the moving parts will be throughout, and you have to be prepared for anything that might happen. Ultimately, the true purpose of both is to bring  family and friends together. The other night I threw a surprise party for my roommate Jenn Berg – the turnout was great, the spread was epic, the champagne was flowing, and the look of sheer happiness on her face made it all worthwhile. Since she loves nutella, I decided to make this gorgeous Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache.
Nutella is a work of art, and there are very few who would say otherwise. In fact it’s so popular that they created a World Nutella Day to showcase the potential of this decadent spread! The original recipe was created by an Italian pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero. In the 1940s, his patisserie was limited on chocolate due to WWII rationing. Northern Italy has an abundant supply of hazelnuts, so Ferrero decided to create a mixture with cocoa to help extend his chocolate supply. The result was so successful that Ferrero created the company Ferrero SpA to market and sell the spread.
This isn’t your average flourless cake – the egg whites are whipped separately from the batter, while the ground hazelnuts act as a “flour” substitute. The result is a soufflé-like cake with a rich flavor contrast (from the nutella and hazelnuts). I wouldn’t say serve bigger slices as a result, though – you will still find it to be plenty rich. The recipe originally calls for Frangelico, but rum works just as well. It also originally calls for a garnish of hazelnuts, but I ended up using Ferrero Rocher balls instead (another favorite of Ferrero SpA). Click HERE to see the recipe for this gorgeous cake!
In homage to Jenn, an oboist, I chose a musical piece that I’ve heard her practicing many, many times: Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin. Originally a suite composed for piano, Ravel later orchestrated four of the seven movements for orchestra. Each movement of the work is dedicated to friends Ravel lost in WWI. Filled with dance-like melodies and pastoral reflections, the work is more a celebration of life rather than a lamentation (making it a wonderful complement to our evening!) This piece places a number of demands on the oboe, making it a staple of their excerpt repertoire (especially for auditions!) I hope that one day I’ll have the chance to hear my extremely talented roomie to perform this with an orchestra – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc8ugWM5tB0&feature=related

Sources Cited:
“Nutella,” Wikipedia.com
“Le tombeau de Couperin,” Wikipedia.com

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