|Candied Chestnut Cake - recipe in post|
Last night, for the first time in a long time, The Fiancé and I had friends over for dinner. With the new floors installed, and the walls (mostly) painted, the house is finally acceptable for hosting. Finally! It's been a long time coming, and I was so excited to prepare a meal for our guests.
When cooking for other people, I generally choose something tried and true, or easy. For the main dish, I made my French Onion Soup (click for recipe). This is a great soup for entertaining, because it can be made the day before, reheated, and slid under the broiler with crostini and cheese when you're ready to serve.
For dessert, I made this Chestnut Cake (recipe below) - something I'd never made before, didn't have a recipe for, and was making up as I went along... nervous, much? I wasn't too worried, though, because our guests happened to be a food blogging friend of ours and her foodie husband... I knew any errors on my part would be more than forgiven. Fortunately, there wasn't a thing to forgive - the cake turned out perfectly, and along with the soup made for a very French dinner indeed!
With over three pounds of fresh Michigan Chestnuts on my hands, I was excited to make a dessert. The cake was inspired by, but in reality nothing like, this recipe from Un Déjeuner de Soleil (in French, with translator) - as happy as I am with my cake, I would love to try her recipe if nothing else than to experience the texture. It looks divine!
It seems to me that most 'chestnut cakes' are simply cakes using chestnut flour. I really wanted my cake to embody all things chestnut, so in addition to the flour I used chestnut puree and candied chestnuts. These can be bought online, or you can make them yourself with fresh chestnuts. In my how-to post on preparing chestnuts, I outline how to make your own puree and marrons glacés (candied chestnuts). It's really quite easy, and definitely cheaper than buying and paying for shipping.
This cake was moist, tender, and definitely chestnut-y. The dusting of powdered sugar on top not only made for a nice presentation, but lent a melt-in-your-mouth quality to each bite. It made a lovely after-dinner dessert, but would be equally fit for a lunch with tea or coffee. Bon appétit!
Recipe Notes: I thought this cake to be ever so slightly on the sweet side, but others thought it was just right. If you prefer a less-sweet dessert, you can try reducing the sugar by 1 TBSP.
Chestnut Flour can be bought online, or substituted with Hazelnut meal.
Chestnut Puree and Candied Chestnuts (in syrup) can be found online, or you can make them yourself.
Candied Chestnut Cake
Gluten-Free, makes one 9" cake
1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsweetened chestnut puree (see recipe notes)
6 TBSP granulated sugar, separated, plus more for coating the pan
4 eggs, separated
1 cup, heaping (280g.) candied chestnuts in syrup (see recipe notes)
2 TBSP rum (or amaretto, grand marnier, or other flavored liquor)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (107g.) chestnut flour, or hazelnut meal
pinch of salt
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350f. (176c.). Thoroughly grease a 9" pan, place a round of parchment paper in the bottom, and grease the parchment. Sprinkle the pan with granulated sugar to coat. (I used a spring-form pan for even easier removal, but this shouldn't be necessary).
2. Strain the syrup from the candied chestnuts and reserve it for later - you should have about 1/4 cup of syrup (if you have less than that, add some honey or maple syrup to bring the amount to 1/4 cup). Chop the strained chestnuts and set aside.
3. With a hand or stand mixer, cream together the butter, chestnut puree, and 3 TBSP of sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the chestnut syrup, rum, and vanilla, then fold in the chestnut flour and candied chestnuts. Set aside.
4. Clean your beaters thoroughly, and wipe with a little vinegar or lemon juice to remove any grease. In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites and salt to medium peaks. While beating on high, add the rest of the granulated sugar 1 TBSP at a time and continue to whip until the meringue has reached stiff peaks.
Fold 1/3rd of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then the rest of the egg whites. Mix gently but thoroughly, until no streaks of egg whites are visible.
5. Pour into your prepared pan, and spread the batter to the edges. Bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes, or until the top turns lightly golden and a tooth pic inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan. When ready to serve, dust the surface with confectioner's sugar.