I've got no clue why this cake is called "Japonaise" (meaning Japanese in French) as to my knowledge it's a French cake, so nothing to do with Japan (sob ;). Anyhow it really is a great cake. It tastes like a Finnish Easter chocolate egg called Mignon (which is chocolate nougat in a real eggshell). I made this cake for my father's birthday which we celebrated two weeks ago.

I had problems with the original recipe and didn't want to post that so it took some time to make the recipe work with me. The critical step for me was making the praline, as the original recipe said "keep stirring vigorously after adding the nuts". So I ended up having white "sugar mash" and not golden praline. I used that for the cake but I think it was one of the reasons my praline crème didn't become so smooth as I had hoped (the other reason being my blender). Anyhow the cake was delicious (but it would have been smoother had I trusted my instinct). Do you know the feeling when you're about to try a new recipe and there's something that you are sure it's not going to work. But as it's the first time so you want to follow the recipe to a T. And then when it doesn't work as it should (as your instinct told you) you feel utterly disappointed with the recipe (but most of all with yourself). In this case I knew that you are not supposed to stir the caramelizing sugar in order to avoid the chrystallization.

Japonaise Cake

adapted from Jan Hedh: Chokladpassion

Japonaise Meringue

30 g hazelnuts
30 g sugar
105 g eggwhites (eggwhites from exactly 3 large eggs this time)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
45 g sugar

Praliné Crème

100 g almonds
100 g hazelnuts
1/2 vanilla bean
200 g sugar
50 g (50 ml) water
75 g dark chocolate
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

To decorate: 25 g dark chocolate
toasted almond flakes

Heat the oven to 110 C. Grind the hazelnuts and sugar (30 g) into fine powder. Whip the eggwhites and lemon juice until big bubbles are formed. Add sugar gradually and whip until glossy and "soft peaks" form. Fold in the hazelnut-sugar powder. Spread (or pipe) the meringue into 3 discs (diameter of 16 cm) on baking paper. Bake in the oven for 2 hours or until dry. (I don't have a convection oven, so I left the oven door slightly open during the baking).

Praline Crème:
Heat the oven to 200 C. Blanche the almonds and then toast them. Toast also the hazelnuts and toss them onto a towel: massage to remove the brown inner peel. Split the vanilla pod, remove seeds (and keep them). Put the pod into a casserole. Add the water and sugar. Bring to boil and let cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod. Cook on high heat until the sugar starts to get slightly golden brown (be careful not to burn it). Remove from heat and stir in the almonds and hazelnuts. Pour the mixture on baking paper and let it harden and cool slightly. Blend until enough smooth (my blender is not powerful enough so the filling ended up a bit grainy, but it was still ok). Check the temperature (it should be slightly warm, not burning hot at this point). Add chopped chocolate and vanilla seeds. Stir until the chocolate has melted. (It should be creamy at this point so add a couple teaspoons water, if it's too dry.) Let cool down for at least an hour. Whip with butter until it's light and fluffy.

Spread the crème on three meringue discs and stack them on top of each other. Cover with the remaining creme. If you end up having leftover crème, you can try piping it as decoration (but it might be too thick... like in my case...).

Decoration: Melt the chocolate and spread thinly on a plastic sheet. Put into freezer to harden. Once it's semisolid, cut it into desired shapes and put to freezer to harden more. Once it's solidified, the pieces should be easily removed from the plastic. Decorate as you like. I pressed toasted almond flakes on the sides and decorated the top with triangular(ish) chocolate sheets  (I cut the chocolate when it was too soft and when I took it from the freezer the soft chocolate had melted the previously cut lines partially...)

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