Chocolate Chestnut (Gesztenye) Torte Recipe From Lucy's Sweet Surrender

At Lucy’s Sweet Surrender, this cake is assembled in a triangular-shaped, handmade wooden loaf pan, but home bakers can make it in a round or sheet cake just as easily. There are endless variations to how one might choose to fill and decorate this cake. Invariably, though, this holiday version has Old World taste with a contemporary style. Fresh chestnut season starts in early November when the first Italian chestnuts arrive, but wait a few weeks to buy them when the price comes down. You can use imported canned chestnut puree, but the taste of a homemade batch is far superior.

  1. Prepare one 9-inch by10-inch chocolate cake of choice — either from scratch or boxed — or buy a 12-inch by 9-inch sheet cake.

  2. To make the chestnut puree:

    • 2lb. fresh chestnuts

    • 2 cups water

    • 1 cup sugar

    • 1/4 cup dark rum

    • In a big pot with a tight cover, boil water. Add chestnuts to simmer on low heat, covered, for one hour, making sure there is always water covering the bottom of the pan. Cut the chestnut on the equator in half and scoop out the meat into a bowl (a grapefruit spoon is helpful for this), keeping the unopened chestnuts warm. Push the meat through a food mill to separate the edible meat. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, blend the chestnut mash, sugar and rum. Wrap in freezer wrap and store in freezer if making ahead of time.

  3. Make a simple syrup to soak the cake:

    • 1 cup water

    • 1/4 cup rum

    • 1 cup sugar

    • Boil ingredients together and cool, then refrigerate.

  4. To make the fresh chestnut whipped cream:

    • 1 quart heavy whipping cream

    • 1 cup sugar

    • chestnut puree (see recipe above)

    • Use 1 quart 40 percent whipped cream. (This is important; it is the fat content of the cream which makes the cream thicken)

    • Add sugar to taste (about 1 cup), stirring gently to dissolve. Add the mixture slowly to room-temperature chestnut puree until it dissolves into the cream. Whip the chestnut cream in a chilled metal bowl on medium-high speed with a whip attachment. If desired, add some pure vanilla extract to taste. When the cream stiffens to crate soft peaks, stop the mixer gradually. Do not overmix.

  5. Assembling the cake: Freeze the cake layer before working with it, as it reduces crumbling. Cut the cake in three equal layers. Place the bottom layer on a flat plate or cardboard cake base, and soak with some of the simple syrup (not too much) with a brush or your fingertips. Spread an equal amount of chestnut cream filling on each layer, stacking as you go. When all three layers are assembled, ice the cake with a thin coating of chestnut cream to seal. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. (Store the remaining icing in the refrigerator until ready.) To finish icing, use a flat spatula to ice all surfaces of the cake. Decorate the top by piping some rosettes or swirls with any leftover cream. Finish the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder then powdered sugar to give it a snowy look. Or, if you have a bar of milk chocolate, use a potato peeler to shave some curls of chocolate, sprinkling around the sides and top. Another option is to use holiday-themed candy to top the torte. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve; this cake tastes best when served within a day of decorating.

Note: Another use for the chestnut puree is to make a crepe dessert, using the chestnut cream as a filling. For an excellent crepe recipe, see The Joy of Cooking.
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