Coffee hazelnut cake with marsala dates

Ricotta, a fabulously versatile cheese with a mild flavour and creamy texture, is used extensively in Italian desserts. Here, it's the star of our beautiful coffee hazelnut cake, acting as a silky filling between layers.

  • 40 mins preparation
  • 1 hr cooking
  • Serves 8
  • Print


Coffee hazelnut cake
  • 1 2/3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250 g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup freshly-brewed strong black coffee
Marsala dates
  • 2/3 cup marsala
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 12 fresh dates, halved lengthways, pitted
Ricotta filling
  • 3 cups firm ricotta
  • 375 g mascarpone
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 1
    Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 2 deep 20cm round cake pans. Line bases and sides with baking paper.
  • 2
    Sift flour, hazelnut meal, baking soda, cocoa and salt into a medium bowl. Beat butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Fold in combined sifted flour mixture, milk and coffee, in 2 batches (the mixture may look split at this stage). Spoon mixture evenly into pans; level surfaces.
  • 3
    Bake cakes for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Stand cakes in pans for 5 minutes before turning, top-side up, onto wire racks to cool.
  • 4
    Make the marsala dates: stir marsala and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, then add dates. Cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until dates are just starting to soften. Remove from heat. Cool dates in marsala syrup. Cut dates into thin wedges.
  • 5
    Make the ricotta filling: process the ingredients until just smooth and combined.
  • 6
    Split cakes in half. Place base of one cake onto a cake stand. Drizzle with a little syrup from marsala dates. Top with a quarter of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layering with remaining cake, syrup and ricotta mixture, finishing with ricotta mixture. Top cake with dates, then drizzle with remaining syrup.


Be careful not to overcook the dates in the syrup or they will lose their shape.

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