This recipe is truly mine – I combined so many different recipes in the making of it, and added so many other random elements that I don’t think I could plot its ancestry if I tried. Sort of like the English Language.
Your Shopping List…350g chestnuts. You are going to have to roast these, then shell them, then grind them, and you will burn your fingers every time. Are you sure you want to make this cake? 125g butter 125g caster sugar 125g chocolate, melted 4 eggs, separated 1 tablespoon (the Australian kind! 20ml) chestnut preserve (the kind you get in a jar at Italian grocery shops – ingredients are chestnuts, sugar and vanilla, and it looks like Nutella) or chestnut puree
For the icing125g butter 60g chocolate 100g chestnut preserve or chestnut puree 300g icing sugar
Now what will you do with it?
You didn’t heed my warning, did you? Alright then, you asked for it. Score the chestnuts with a cross, and put them on a baking tray. Try not to amputate any fingers during this process – the chestnuts are hard and not all that flat. Roast at 180°C for 10 minutes to half an hour, depending on your oven. You’re looking for them to start peeling themselves open around the cross you scored, and for them not to look too pale inside.
Put them into a bowl of very hot (just boiled is good) water, and then peel them. I’m not being sadistic; the trouble is that as soon as the nuts cool down, the skins will start sticking to them. I generally hold them in a rubber-gloved hand and peel them very cautiously with the sacrificial hand that will get burned. Sorry. If you know a better way of doing this I would be absolutely delighted to hear it.
You should get about 125-150g of chestnuts at this point. You only need 125g of chestnuts, so if I were you I’d chuck the meat of the chestnuts into a bowl on the scales as I go, so that I don’t have to peel one more chestnut than is strictly necessary. This really is an appalling task, but the cake is worth it, at least for a special occasion.
Put 125g of chestnuts into a food processor and process until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. At this point, I might well spread the ground nuts out on a tray in the oven for ten minutes or so to toast them a little, because the water won’t have helped their texture any. You can do all this the day before if you like.
Right, now you can do the easy part. Preheat the oven to 170°C, fan-forced (so about 180-190°C conventional oven), and line a twelve hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg yolks, chestnut puree, chocolate and ground chestnuts. Whip the egg whites until they are quite stiff, and then fold gently into the chocolate mixture. It’s easier if you start by mixing in one large spoonful of the egg white mix to loosen the batter.
Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, and bake for 20 minutes. The cakes will rise a little and shouldn’t be too moist in the middle – if a few crumbs come out on the cake tester, that’s ok though.
Cool on a rack.
To make the icing, melt together the chocolate and the chestnut preserve, and let cool while you cream the butter and icing sugar together. Stir in the chocolate and chestnut mix, and then spoon into a piping bag and pipe onto the cake.
Top with a candied or glace chestnut, if desired. If you are a true glutton for punishment and want to make your own candied chestnuts, I recommend the recipe by Not Quite Nigella. They do taste better than the kind you buy, which is very annoying because it means I’ll have to keep making them.
Share the cakes with your friends, so that they can be impressed by what a genius you are. Feel free to guilt-trip them with your poor burned fingers – you’ve earned it…