Tort de castane – Lucia chestnut cake

This cake is inspired by a Romanian chestnut preserve called piure de castane. If you read the name out loud, you will realise what it means, it is a purée of chestnuts, made with rum and cream, sold in jars and very often eaten straight from them. For a more elegant presentation, try to serve it in little coffee cups.

 

Chestnut groves are found mainly in northern Transylvania, in a region called Maramureş, and any chestnut preserves are fondly associated with this beautiful part of the country. My mum Lucia came from here, and often she would receive a jar of chestnut purée as a token from home, a gift that would remind her of her childhood and grandparents, school holidays and countryside explorations. She also loved coffee, the Turkish style that we drink in Romania, and because of this I have added a coffee sauce to this cake in an attempt to do a little something in her memory.

 

The cake has a very smooth, fondant texture, and is very rich. The cream makes it lighter at the top, while the coffee gives it a boost in flavour. It is really meant to be served in small portions – a special aristocratic treat in the afternoon to celebrate the chestnut season.

 

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • 30g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • 300g cooked and peeled chestnuts, blitzed to a paste – reserve 2-3 chestnuts for decoration

 

For the rum and coffee sauce:

  • 150ml water
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 20g butter
  • 50ml rum

 

For the cream:

  • 150ml cream
  • 2tsp vanilla

 

Method:

Melt the butter and allow to cool to room temperature. Beat the eggs with the sugar until light in colour and fluffy. Fold the egg mixture into the chestnut purée, then slowly add the butter, incorporating well.

 

Pour the mixture into a lined 20cm cake tin, and bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes. It needs to be firm, but the middle will stay quite soft. Take the tin out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

 

While the cake is baking, make the coffee sauce: bring the water and sugar to the boil then simmer for up to 10 minutes until it has the consistency of a syrup. Stir in the coffee, keep on the heat for a few more minutes, then allow to cool slightly. Whisk it until it thickens and starts to lose its shine. While the mixture is still relatively warm, stir in the butter and the rum, then allow to cool completely.

 

When you are ready to serve, whisk the cream with the vanilla to soft peaks, top the cake with it, then pour a little of the coffee sauce on top. Chop the reserved chestnuts and arrange them on top. Serve in small slices.

 

PS: if this looks a little too complicated to make, then make only the cake, bake it in a terrine-like dish or loaf tin, then serve it sliced like a loaf cake. Drizzle some shop-bought custard or just a teaspoon of double-cream.