Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chestnut Cream Cocoa Cake

If the summer is loaded with fresh beautiful berries, autumn and winter surely belongs to the nuts of all kinds big and small. After using up the pecan in the pantry, I bought some fresh chestnuts to try out. Although I made a chestnut mousse cake earlier this year for Curry's birthday, the fact that I used prepacked and pre cleaned chestnuts meant that I haven't actually experience handling a real chestnut and I was eager to learn! Oh boy, half way in peeling the outer shells of 1 lb of chestnuts I was already cursing myself for being too curious! And after the outer shells were removed by poking and running a small knife around it, there was still the husks. And worst, some of them were rotten and after husking, all was left was a mere 6 oz (175g)!

Initially I was planning to make a chestnut cream cake with the famous Mont Blanc design of chestnut puree sizzled all over in strands on the top of the cake but with that little chestnut left, I was to decide on either the cream part or the fancy design part! With a cocoa genoise cake as the base, I figured that the cream was a better option as the contrast of the light and dark brown colors and the similar layer effect was more pleasing to the eyes than all the busy swirls. I love the blackberries for its dark color and they added an extra sweetness and kind of cut down the richness of chestnut cream in the palate.

Although I dislike working with chocolate in my baking, cocoa powder is not a problem. As with chocolate, only the best quality cocoa powder will do in producing a good cake. Basically this genoise cake is built up from the air incorporated into the batter from the beating of eggs and no other types of leavener or liquid was used. The key to a successful genoise cake is to properly beat the eggs with the sugar in a bowl over simmering water or bain marie which dissolves the sugar and warming the eggs helps to trap more air during the beating and double up its volume which builds the structure of the cake. I adapted this recipe from my favorite cake making book, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker. This was my first serious cake recipe book and although there are no bright colorful photos in my old edition cookbook, the black and white illustrations of the cakes and the easy to read and understand recipes and notes were appealing to me and so far, I have never failed in anything when using this book. Sometimes the best recipes are in these types of cookbooks which explains and shows the basics of a few cakes baked from the same method and introduces multiple ways to dress up the basic cakes rather than the numerous cookbooks that are circulating in the market these days which can be overwhelming with too many photos and similarities with other publications.

I boiled the cleaned chestnuts in milk and sugar for almost 20 mins to soften it and till the milk evaporated and because of the high starch content of the nuts, once pureed, it produces a paste like texture instantly and I stirred in the dissolved gelatin before adding the whole mixture to the whipped cream. I left the chestnut cream layer set over the cocoa cake layer in the fridge overnight before cutting them into slices and garnishing them with the blackberries. I used frozen blackberries and cooked them with a bit of sugar for 10 mins to make them softer and sweeter. Sprinkled with more cocoa powder, this cake makes a perfect start to a festive eating season, rich in taste and indulgent.

1 comment:

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Yummy, yummy, yummy. Looks lovely