Artist’s Palate: Tomás Saraceno’s chocolate nut cake

Tomás Saraceno’s chocolate nut cake
‘Alchimie Platinum’ dessert plate, £80, by L’Objet, from Harrods.
(Image credit: John Short)

Tomás Saraceno likes to say that he ‘lives in and beyond the Planet Earth’. The Argentine artist’s lofty ambitions are evident in his Aerocene sculptures, which become buoyant thanks to the heat of the sun. Applying this technology, he launched the world’s first solar-powered flight in 2015, bringing mankind ever closer to the dream of Icarus. More recently, Saraceno’s work has taken on an interstellar dimension, using images of faraway galaxies to challenge our conceptions of space and time. He reminds us that what we see in the night skies is a very ancient image. ‘We, earthlings, are always convicted to watch the past.’ Happily, the past abounds with wonderful things – including this chocolate nut cake recipe, passed on to Saraceno by his grandmother.

250g whole hazelnuts
200g butter, cubed, plus some more for greasing
200g dark chocolate 6 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
3 tbsp hazelnut liqueur, amaretto or orange juice

150g chocolate spread

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Put the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast them in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake halfway through, until they are golden brown. Watch them carefully so that they don’t burn. Remove and leave them to cool for a few minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Butter a 23cm spring form cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Place 200g of the hazelnuts in a food processor and blend them until they are fairly finely ground. If you blend the nuts to the consistency of fine breadcrumbs, they should work a treat, but leave a few coarser pieces to add texture. Set the remaining 50g hazelnuts aside.

Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it above a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally, and as soon as nearly all the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and continue to let the chocolate melt in the residual heat.
Stir in the ground hazelnuts and leave the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together with an electric hand-whisk for at least 5 minutes until pale and creamy, then stir into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Wash and dry the beaters well.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form – they are ready when you can turn the bowl upside down without the eggs sliding out. Do not over whisk.

Working quickly, stir the hazelnut liqueur, amaretto or orange juice into the chocolate mixture to soften. Add a couple of tablespoonfuls of the whisked egg whites and stir until thoroughly combined, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the cake is well risen and firm.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 30 minutes. Undo the spring clip and invert the cake on to a serving plate, then peel off the lining paper and leave it to cool completely.

When the cake is cold, spread it with the chocolate and hazelnut spread and sprinkle with the hazelnuts that you set aside – these can be whole or chopped, whatever you prefer.

As originally featured in the April 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*229)


Tomás Saraceno is at MAAT in Lisbon, 21 March – 27 August. For more information, visit Tomás Saraceno’s website

TF Chan is a former editor of Wallpaper* (2020-23), where he was responsible for the monthly print magazine, planning, commissioning, editing and writing long-lead content across all pillars. He also played a leading role in multi-channel editorial franchises, such as Wallpaper’s annual Design Awards, Guest Editor takeovers and Next Generation series. He aims to create world-class, visually-driven content while championing diversity, international representation and social impact. TF joined Wallpaper* as an intern in January 2013, and served as its commissioning editor from 2017-20, winning a 30 under 30 New Talent Award from the Professional Publishers’ Association. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University.

With contributions from