I am totally unprepared for Halloween this year. It’s not big in Denmark at all except with American expats, though the munchkin is very excited at the prospect of candy :D
I haven’t made anything particularly halloween-y. No cute-scary ghosts, spiders or mummies. Let’s see if I pull a rabbit out of the bag later, though with my ridiculous schedule, it seems unlikely.
This cake I made though, kind of inspires dark thoughts… it is a ridiculously decadent cake with a lot and I mean a lot of dark chocolate the 70% cocoa variety) and lovely roasted chestnuts.
And the best part: it comes with a scary, cautionary tale…
There is a tree about halfway between my house and the munchkin’s daycare. Every autumn it produces loads of (what I thought were) chestnuts. Two weeks or so ago, feeling very excited about my foraging abilities, the munchkin and I collected a basket full of these beautiful nuts (we weren’t the only ones, other people were collecting too!)
We got them home, I cleaned them, made the prescribed slash on them with a sharp knife, popped them in the oven and waited eagerly. Once they were done, I cracked one open (which was quite hard to do) and took a little bite. Oh, the disappointment… it was horribly bitter! I tried another one with the same result.
Confused, I googled ‘bitter chestnuts’ and guess what… these weren’t proper chestnuts, they were horse chestnuts and just perfect for Halloween, also poisonous! Effects include nausea and paralysis, though you would have to eat large quantities for it to be fatal! Needless to say, the whole lot found its way to the trash!
But I refused to give up my plan to cook with chestnuts this year. So I got the husband to buy me some from a Turkish store that sells them in season, with the sole purpose of making this cake. I have been in love with this cake from Jun-blog ever since I saw it on Pinterest. Isn’t it gorgeous?
It has an interesting name too: Torta Morbida di Castagne e Cioccolato. I love the ‘Morbida’ in there :D Simply means soft in Italian, but it evokes something quite different to English speakers. Perfect for Halloween, I think!
There’s hardly any flour in the cake. It is pure dark chocolate heaven and oh-so moist. Interspersed with the sweet chestnuts (yes, the store-bought ones were sweet, thank goodness!) Like Jun says, this cake is rich but not too rich; sweet, but not too sweet :) To me, it was just fabulous. I served it with the Vanilla syrup in which the chestnuts are simmered. Ridiculously good!
I am bringing along this luscious cake and this cautionary tale over to Angie’s Friday Fiesta this week, co-hosted by the awesome twosome Margy @La Petite Casserole and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. ‘Tis the season to be scary, after all :D Happy Halloween!!
Here’s the recipe (adapted from Jun-Blog).
Chestnut and Chocolate Cake
250 grams Chestnuts in shell (will yield about 1 cup roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts)
1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean, cut in half lengthwise
Pinch of Salt
150 grams Butter
350 grams Bittersweet Chocolate (I used 70& cocoa)
5 large Eggs, separated
2 tablespoons All-purpose Flour
Preheat oven to 250 C.
Wash chestnuts in running water.
Soak in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes to help soften their shells. This will make them easier to slash.
Make a horizontal cut starting at one edge of the flat side, going around the chestnut’s belly, and stopping at the edge of the opposite flat side. Do not cut into the flat side and try to keep the slash shallow.
Spread the chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast them until they are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on their freshness.
Take them off the baking sheet and wrap them tightly in a cloth towel for about 10 minutes before shelling them.
The chestnuts will steam a bit inside the towel, which will make it easier to shell and skin them.
Shell and skin the chestnuts.
Making the cake:
Place chestnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a large saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and let chestnuts cool in syrup, then drain. Reserve syrup.
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Grease a 9-1/2-inch deep fluted tart pan with a removable bottom or a spring-form pan.
Chop chocolate into small pieces. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a metal bowl set on top of a pot of simmering water.
Add brown sugar and butter, stirring until smooth.
Remove bowl from heat and whisk mixture until cooled to lukewarm.
Whisk in egg yolks and flour.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter in two additions.
Pour batter into greased pan.
Gently lay chestnuts on top of batter.
Bake until top of cake has formed a thin crust, about 40 minutes.
Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then release from pan and let it cool completely.
Serve with the reserved Vanilla syrup.
(All the pictures above are of the ‘real’ chestnuts, in case you are wondering :D )