Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cake (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


I received so many wonderful birthday wishes on this blog, I can’t thank you all enough. I put up that post on a whim and it got a much greater response than I expected. Who knew I had so many foodie friends? I suppose it speaks to the power of food and its ability to connect us all, despite our differences. I suppose it also speaks to the power of the internet and its ability to connect us all, regardless of distance. For me, it took a quiet birthday and made it all the more special.

The following day was my actual “celebration”. I had my choice of restaurants and I chose Bertucci’s. I know we foodies are supposed to disdain chains in favour of the independent, chef-run restaurants, but I’ve developed a healthy appreciation for family chains. See, I have kids. And even relatively well-behaved kids, such as mine are, are always slightly loud and somewhat embarrassing in public. A chain restaurant like Bertucci’s gives me peace of mind. I know what I am getting into when I go, and the staff know what they are getting into when they take the job. The food is unspectacular but consistent, the service is quick and I don’t have to worry that I am foisting my children on folks looking for a quiet, romantic dinner. Bertucci’s, being a pasta chain, might seem like an unlikely choice for a diabetic, but I have a great meal picked out there. Tuscan chicken wings and grilled tuscan veggies. Both are very good and easy on my glucose levels.

We came home to presents and my birthday cake, baked by yours truly. I dreamed up this cake a few weeks ago and was very much looking forward to seeing how it played out. Two layers of coconut flour-based chocolate cake, with a layer of chocolate hazelnut cream and crunchy toasted hazelnuts and topped by a dark chocolate ganache. Would it live up to the cake in my imagination? Could a low carb, gluten free layer cake possibly be any good? Would my kids like it? Actually, who cares about the kids…as long as I liked it, I’d consider it a success.

The Results: And a success it was. And not just in a “well, it’s pretty good for a low carb, gluten free cake” way. Nope, this was really good cake all around. Thank goodness, as I really was looking forward to it and would have been horribly disappointed if it hadn’t worked out. The layers of cake were moist and held together well, the hazelnut cream in the middle was delicious, and you can’t go wrong with chocolate ganache. Perhaps my only complaint is that I wanted more hazelnut flavour. I’d bought a bottle of hazelnut extract and added to both the cake layers and the chocolate ganache, but it really didn’t come through. Only the hazelnut cream in the middle had any real hazelnut flavour. Still, I loved it and would recommend this cake to everyone, not just diabetics, low carbers and celiacs!

This is by no means the lowest carb dessert I’ve ever made, but hey, it was my birthday. I’d consider this a controlled indulgence.

Hazelnut Crunch Layer Cake

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 eggs
1 tsp vanilla or hazelnut extract
1/2 tsp liquid stevia extract
3/4 cup almond milk

Hazelnut Cream:
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
2 tbsp vegetable or nut oil
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp erythritol, preferably powdered
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream

Chocolate Ganache:
5 oz high % cacao chocolate (I use Lindt 85%)
4 tbsp butter

1/4 cup toasted, husked hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F, and line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease paper and sides of pan.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut flour, erythritol, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat eggs with vanilla or hazelnut extract and stevia extract until frothy. Add butter/cocoa mixture to eggs and beat until combined. Add half of coconut flour mixture and beat on low for a few moments, then add almond milk and beat in thoroughly. Add remaining coconut flour mixture and beat on low, then use a rubber spatula to stir and make sure all ingredients are well combined.

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are set and tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then flip out onto wire rack to cool completely.

For the hazelnut cream, grind hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground and beginning to clump together. Add remaining ingredients and continue to process until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides of processor with a rubber spatula as needed*.

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir in hazelnut mixture until fully combined.

Spread hazelnut cream on one layer of cake, then sprinkle with 2 tbsp of chopped, toasted hazelnuts. Top with second layer of cake.

For the ganache, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until completely smooth. Pour about half over the top of prepared cake and spread with an offset spatula. Pour remaining ganache over top of prepared cake and spread to the edges, allowing some ganache to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining chopped hazelnuts.

*Note: this is essentially homemade nutella. I made a larger batch of it a few days ahead, and when it came time to make the cake, I used about 1/2 – 3/4 cup to mix with the whipped cream. If you make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, you will want to bring it to room temperature, or even a bit warmer by heating gently in your microwave, before mixing it into the whipped cream.

Serves 16. Each serving has a total of 14.2g of carbs, and 3.9g of fiber, but only 9.9g of carbs if you subtract erythritol. Total net carbs (minus fiber and erythritol) is 6g.

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  1. Maja says

    This cake looks amazing ! I am especially weak around chocolate desserts so will definitely save this recipe to make it soon !

  2. ravienomnoms says

    I love going to Bertucci's! What a great place for a birthday dinner…This cake looks SO amazing, holy moly. Delicious!

  3. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic says

    Belated happy birthday :) I love chocolate and hazelnut together (hello Nutella). This cake looks great!

  4. Pretend Chef says

    The cake is so beautiful and such a sweet way to end your birthday celebration. The hazelnut cream sounds amazing! Yummy!

  5. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says

    What a gorgeous cake to celebrate your birthday! I never would have believed it was low carb or gluten free!

  6. Katrina says

    Can you dream up MY birthday cake? It's in November so you have time. 😉 WOW! Great post!! ♥- Katrina

  7. Amy Bakes Everything says

    How gorgeous is that! And even though I know it is, it's really hard for me to believe that it's low-carb! Great job!

  8. Susi says

    Carolyn I'm so glad to hear you had a wonderful birthday! I do prefer non-chain restaurants, but agree with you that they are the best option many times when you have younger kids.
    Your cake is beautiful and fitting for any special occasion.
    Just a thought on perking up the hazelnut flavor. Oh!Nuts sells ground hazelnuts, which I use a lot for baking. It is gluten free and might work in this as well :o) Here is the link:

  9. Ruby says

    What an amazing cake! I might try something similar for hubby's birthday, coming up in April. Happy belated birthday, btw – sorry I missed it! :-)

  10. Jill Colonna says

    Sounds like you had a fab birthday weekend and your cake? Amazing enough just looking at it with the sauce (I'm dribbling too!) but to see that it's gluten free and low carb, too? Brilliant!

  11. The Mom Chef says

    "You see, I have kids." That's all that needs to be said. Thank goodness for those places that take the kid factor into consideration!

    I love the look of your cake. I do like my hazelnuts too.

  12. Elisabeth says

    So happy for you that you had such a fabulous birthday, Carolyn. Also, how gracious of you to make your very own amazing and decadent birthday cake. It is absolutely insanely gorgeous!

  13. The Cilantropist says

    Chocolate and hazelnuts are always a winning combination, and I especially like the idea of the layer of hazelnut cream between. Beautiful photos (I love the shiny look of the ganache) and glad your birthday cake was everything you wanted!

  14. Tiffany says

    I've GOT to get some coconut flour! This cake looks amazing! I love all of the components, especially the filling! I think I could just eat the filling! 😀

  15. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says

    Yum! This cake is gorgeous! I'm glad you enjoyed your birthday celebration. Restaurant chains aren't all that bad. Sometimes you need a place that will make everyone happy, and chains can usually do that.

  16. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says

    Oh my word, chocolate and hazelnuts?! You know this cake is calling my name. 😉 I would love to eat the whole entire thing. I can't get over how insanely good it looks. :)

  17. Sandra says

    Perfection!!! What a great deserve it all the way!
    I really really love this cake..I am buzzing!:)

  18. Spicie Foodie says

    Glad to hear you had a great b-day :) Don't you just love this great community of ours, full of wonderful people. Your cake is what I want for my b-day cake in a couple of months. Looks divine !

  19. scratch-made wife says

    Hope you had a fabulous birthday! I know this cake would have made my birthday! :) I wonder if I could talk the husband into making one for my upcoming celebration …

  20. Lizzy says

    You always amaze me! What a gorgeous cake…and low carb and gluten free? I'm so glad it was enjoyed by the most important taster…the birthday girl!

  21. Fresh and Foodie says

    O.M.G. This looks incredible! Love the idea of a hazelnut cream, and the chocolate ganache looks over the top! Nice job.

  22. says

    Hope you had a wonderful birthday! This looks sooo yummy! I told my mom about your blog a few weeks ago and she is hooked. She is a diabetic and loves all of the low carb recipes! :)

  23. Grace says

    Wow, wow, wow, this cake is stunning!!! Carolyn I am so drooling on this end – sounds like you had a great day – you deserve it.

  24. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen says

    Beautiful cake, I'm glad it came out even better than you had hoped, it's always great when that happens.

  25. Becky says

    Your cake is gorgeous, and certainly doesn't look "low carb."I like that you said this cake was a "controlled indulgence". I'll have to remember that, because my birthday is coming up! Thanks so much for sharing!

  26. Wilde in the Kitchen says

    With all of that chocolate and hazelnut this cake looks amazing! Can't believe it's low-carb!

  27. BakingWithoutaBox says

    Oh my word, just one look at your top photo and all I could think is I want it! Now! Gorgeous work! Love the hazelnut cream.

  28. Karen says

    Wow…this is amazing! I'd like to bake that for my birthday, or better yet, have someone else bake it for me!! Good choice!

  29. Magic of Spice says

    Sounds like you had a wonderful celebration…this cake looks glorious, wish I had some now with my coffee :)

  30. Lisa @ Tarte du Jour says

    This looks out of this world! My dear friend is gluten free so I'm always happy to find a great recipe. Fabulous!

  31. Kim - Liv Life says

    I recently discovered just how much I love almond milk! I've not used it in baking yet, but this looks to have worked so well. Your photos are simply beautiful! I promise not to make this one and blog about it tonight!! 😉 But I am off to buzz you!

  32. All That's Left Are The Crumbs says

    I love the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. I think the hazelnut is a very underutilized ingredient, which is a shame. I haven't heard of Bertucci's but it certainly sounds good. I am glad that you enjoyed your birthday.

  33. A Little Yumminess says

    Happy birthday! With this cake any birthday would be happy. You are such a talent in the kitchen

  34. Sommer J says

    Happy belated birthday, Carolyn!!!! This cake looks amazing!! What a great cake to bake for yourself. I love chocolate and hazelnuts together…so does my youngest- he turns 2!

    I understand why you would go to a chain restaurant. I try to avoid restaurants on a whole because 2 of my 3 are ok behaved. my youngest thinks he is a ninja and I am starting to believe so, too. He can not keep still…and he LOVES carb *sigh* glad you had a great day! This recipe will make a lot of people's day I am sure :)

  35. Peter says

    Happy belated birthday Carolyn! Everything about this cake is an arrow of love in my wife's heart.

    Yes, that's right, with these kinds of ingredients I have a direct route to her heart. truth be told, I already do, but oh this cake will make her melt!

    Thank-you, I can't wait to try this.


  36. A little bit of everything says

    So happy to hear you had a wonderful Birthday.
    We also used to go to local restaurants but after I had Tiffany, we not visit the chain ones since they seem to care more about family with small kids and don't give you the look when your baby throws the food on the floor (it happened once, i was so embarrassed wish I could hide under the table)

    The cake sounds heavenly. Love your home made Nutella version.
    I'll have to give it a try soon. Thanks

    • Carolyn says

      Sure, feel free to try both those substitutions. I can’t guarantee them since I haven’t tried them myself.

  37. Ena says

    I tried it and I love it. I added more erythritol to the chocolate dressing. In the beginning the cake tasted like eggs but after leaving it in the fridge for a while it tasted good. You may need to add more erythritol to the cake as well.

  38. Pamela says

    Hello fellow Torontonian! I have been consumed by your recipe and writing since starting a low carb lifestyle recently. I actually don’t think we can get Swerve in Canada yet (maybe put in a good word for us up here) but I waited until my CBS trip (that is cross boarder shopping for non Canadians) and picked up my order then proceeded to make this lovely creation of chocolaty goodness. I made it for my Birthday sans nuts but it turned out great. A little less sweet then expected even with the addition of a sprinkling of powdered swerve on the layers and a swerve and water syrup brushed on the layers. For the non lowcarb peeps the at first turned their noses up but after a few bites (and the addition of whipped cream)they actually enjoyed it! Many thought the cake was great not too sweet and you really got the chocolaty flavour. Thank you for your wonderful recipe. And thank you for this site! It mAkes lowcarb exciting and fun!

    • Carolyn says

      Thanks, Pamela. And you can in fact get Swerve in Canada, through Low Carb Canada (a website). I wanted to order it for my mum, but they wouldn’t accept it because I am in the US. Annoying, but anyway…

      • Pamela says

        Thanks for the tip on Low Carb Canada! When I don’t have time to take a trip south I will definitely check them out.

        Thank you again for all your recipes!

    • Carolyn says

      Sorry, it’s quite an old recipe and I haven’t had time to go back and do all the calcs on this. You can enter all the ingredients into something like myfitnesspal to get a reading on it.


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