Chocolate Chestnut Layer Cake

Recipe: Marronnier (Chocolate Chestnut Layer Cake)
Level: Intermediate
Techniques: Chocolate Sponge, Chestnut Mousse, Vanilla Rum Syrup

Chestnuts…

Delicious little things. I’ve had them roasted, and to be honest that’s about it.

So when I saw a recipe for chestnut cake, I thought, why not? I’ve always seen the cans of Crème de Marrons (chestnut spread) in the supermarket and wanted to try it, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Crème de Marrons is a grainy paste made from cooked chestnuts, vanilla and sugar. On it’s own I found it really, umm, well, just plain odd. It’s earthy and a bit nasty tasting. Apparently it’s nice smeared on toast, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that with the leftover half a can I have!

Before I get on with the recipe, I wanted to apologise for the delay with the update. All of the boring constraints of normal life got in the way this week and I managed to find the time to bake, but not the time to write it all down.

Back to the recipe and as with all of the classic cakes the first part involves making the sponge cake. Another fatless sponge, made light and airy because of the whipped egg whites into which the yolks, flour and cocoa powder are added.

A quick 12 min bake in the oven and then onto a rack to cool.

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Now for the mousse. I beat the egg yolks in the food mixer and made a sugar syrup which I added to the beaten eggs. I continued to whip the eggs for a further 10 mins until they cooled to room temperature.

To make the mousse set, gelatin was added. I dissolved the gelatin in some warmed rum and then added this to the chestnut spread, beating it until smooth.

The beaten eggs were then added to the chestnuts and mixed in thoroughly. The last part was to add the whipped cream and give it all a good stir.

With the mousse made and the cake cooled, all that remained was to assemble the cake. I cut out both the sponge cakes using a pastry ring.

Placing one cake in the bottom of the ring, I brushed it with vanilla rum syrup (a mix of sugar, vanilla extract and rum, heated until the sugar dissolves) and then covered it with a layer of chestnut spread. This was topped with the chestnut mousse and the next piece of cake.

Again I brushed the second cake with vanilla rum syrup and chestnut spread before topping it off with the remaining chestnut mousse.

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The book told me to freeze it for an hour and then top it with grated chocolate before cutting it into portions. So I did just that and went and made myself a coffee and shouted at the TV whilst watching Question Time.

I checked it after an hour and it was still very runny. So I left it for another hour. I returned to the freezer prodded the mousse tentatively and still it was barely set.

By now I was feeling deflated and needed my bed. So I took the cake out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge overnight. My reasoning behind this? The instructions were to ‘set’ the cake, not ‘freeze’ it, so I thought a night in the fridge would be just what the cake needed.

The next morning, full of hope I wandered downstairs to the fridge, covered the cake in grated chocolate and removed the pastry ring.

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This was the worst thing I could’ve done…

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The mousse hadn’t set after two hours in the freezer and a night in the fridge. I was too disappointed to even try and work out why it wasn’t setting. Instead I cut the cake into portions as quickly as possible and decided my initial reasoning was wrong and the cake was never going to ‘set’, so ‘freezing’ was the new favourite option.

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I checked on the cakes again a few hours later and they were starting to set/freeze. I trimmed them and tried to make the portions look more presentable.

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I now think the reason the mousse didn’t set was because I didn’t soak the gelatine enough and the rum I melted the gelatine in was too hot. If gelatine gets too hot, it no longer sets and it is the only explanation as to why this turned out more like a tasty ice-cream cake, rather than a light mousse slice.

Despite the strange taste of the chestnut paste, it works very well in this cake. The flavour is softened with the addition of the cream and the eggs. So despite the problems I encountered with this recipe, I would recommend you try baking with chestnuts.

Next week, Chocolat-Framboise, this is another one with mousse, but no gelatine this time. Phew.

Thanks for reading.

Angela

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