Chestnuts that refuse to peel are completely infuriating. Chestnut season in Australia starts around late March through to May – in some ways I’m glad that it’s short, because they are a total pain in the arse! They taste good and all, but man they can be annoying little buggers.
My last fruit and vege delivery came with a container of fresh chestnuts, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them. It was the beginning of the Easter holiday, and we weren’t going to be home much for meals, so I decided to turn it into cake: specifically, this chocolate and chestnut cake.
I needed chestnut puree to make the cake, so I started the arduous process of peeling the chestnuts. I’ve discovered that if you don’t need whole chestnuts, you can just cut them in half – it makes them a bit easier to peel. Just be careful that your knife doesn’t slip, I almost took a finger off!
After I managed to peel all my chestnuts (while keeping my fingers), I boiled them in water until tender. Then they were processed in the food processor with a bit of the cooking water until I had a smooth puree. I decided to leave the puree unsweetened, because I didn’t think the cake would need any additional sugar.
The recipe calls for sherry, which I didn’t have in the house, so I substituted it with half brandy and half Frangelico. It resulted in a boozy cake, with a gorgeously soft texture, and dark chocolate flavour. You couldn’t really taste the chestnuts that much, but it was still a divine cake. With all brandy, I think the cake would’ve been too boozy, but with the addition of the Frangelico it was just perfect. The other change I made was leaving out the hazelnuts, and including some roughly chopped chestnuts instead.
The cake really was beautiful. It looks quite dense, but it was so, so soft. Was it worth it? For sure. But next time I think I’ll just buy a jar of chestnut puree and save myself some time, sweat and threat of injury!
Chocolate and chestnut cake
Adapted from cuisine.com.au
150g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
6 medium eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
½ cup chestnut puree (I recommend unsweetened if you’re using a jar/tinned version)
70g peeled fresh chestnuts, roughly chopped (substitute with skinned hazelnuts if unavailable)
50g self-raising flour, sifted
55g cocoa powder
Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease and line a 24cm springform cake tin.
Place the chocolate and butter into a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water until melted. Add the brandy and Frangelico and mix to combine. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture, chestnut puree, fresh chestnuts and mix to combine. Add the sifted flour and cocoa powder and mix gently to combine.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.