When you are expecting a large number of guests, there is no simpler dessert to prepare than a sheet cake. And contrary to popular belief, cake can be really, really delicious. I found the cake part of this recipe on the Taste of Home site a few years ago. I first served it as Mocha Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Frosting. (On this site) And it has become my number one favorite chocolate cake. And every time I make it, it always meets with rave reviews. The cake is so moist, tender, and delicious, that frosting or topping probably wouldn’t be necessary. But because I enjoy gilding a lily, I always frost or top the cake with a little “something”.

This time I decided to top the cake with a chocolate hazelnut concoction. (It was going to be dessert for an Italian themed meal, so of course chocolate hazelnut anything would have been perfect!)  I found the recipe on the Cookies and Cups website. It was actually a cake filling recipe, but it looked so wonderful, that I had to give it a try. Of course I messed with it by adding Frangelico, but then, how could a splash of Frangelico hurt?

In my mind I thought I was creating a frosting, but as sometimes happens, things don’t always work out exactly as planned. I felt the “frosting” was too soft to set properly. So I decided that serving pieces of cake with a generous dollop of this amazingly flavorful “topping”, then garnishing each serving with chopped hazelnuts, was the way to go. And not only did it end up tasting wonderful, the presentation was lovely.

For me, the most delightful thing about cooking is the experimental process. And there are so many wonderful internet cooking sites to help me achieve my goals. Anything I need, or any subject of interest is right at my fingertips. So special thanks to the wonderful cooks who share their recipes with the world. They make me a better cook and I totally appreciate every single one of them.

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 T. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ c. room temperature coffee or 1½ c. water and 1 rounded tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/3 c. sour cream
  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ c. chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 2 T. Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
  • chopped toasted hazelnuts, garnish

Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 3 teaspoons of the vanilla. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and sour cream, beating well after each addition.

Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch glass pan and an 8×8-inch square or round pan or three 9-inch greased and floured baking pans. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Don’t over-bake! Remove from oven and place pans on wire racks to cool completely. When cool, cover with plastic wrap.  

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

In the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and chocolate hazelnut spread until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and the Frangelico; beat until smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the reserved whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve generously dolloped onto cut pieces of cake. Garnish with chopped toasted hazelnut pieces.

(Thanks Brian and Bonnie for letting me know that my preparation instructions were incomplete before this revision. I must admit however, that I liked Brian’s idea that perhaps the Frangelico was just meant as a small treat for the baker, rather than an ingredient in the topping. But then, while you have the bottle out anyway, a wee dram for the baker could always become a part of the entire culinary experience. Just sayin’…….)

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks