This is a special cake from a very special cookbook, Jenny McCoy's Desserts for Every Season, a baker and cookbook totally deserving of Famous Friday status. I LOVE this cookbook! Everything I've made from it has been exceptional and interesting--it makes me want to just stay home and bake! We rang in the New Year with this amazing cake and in my house it became a family project with my son and his girlfriend spearheading the entire thing and me acting as consultant. My daughter helped too and even some cousins were involved. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks!
Jenny McCoy is a young pastry chef who oversaw three restaurant pastry departments for Emeril Lagass, has worked at Marc Forgione and A Voce and Craft in NYC and in 2011 won the NYC Rising Star Pastry Chef Award. She's the co-founder of Cisse Trading Compnay, a line of gourmet products and also a chef-instructor at The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. Not to mention, author of this wonderful cookbook.
This is a creation best saved for special occasions because it is a two-day affair and while not difficult, requires a lot of different steps. But the end result is so worth it! I'd never cooked with chestnuts before so this was a new challenge. Day One you make the cake layers and the caramel sauce base for the caramel mousse filling (are you drooling yet?!!)
First, you score and roast the chestnuts, removing them from their shell once they're cool enough to handle.
Then, using a food processor, you grind them up with cake flour, chestnut flour, baking and salt and mix that with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream to make the cake batter. While the cake layers are baking, you make the caramel sauce which later gets mixed into the mousse filling.
See those bits stuck to the whisk--just keep stirring and eventually the heat will melt them and they'll dissolve into the rest of your caramel sauce. Now go get a good night's sleep so you can wake up fresh and relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of this masterpiece!
Day Two is all about frosting and assembly. First you make your Brown Sugar Buttercream which is easy but involves whipping a lot of egg whites, giving it a light fluffy feel.
Next you prepare the caramel mousse which is easy and only involves mixing the caramel sauce you make the day before with mascarpone cheese and heavy cream. You will definitely have to stop yourself from stealing little gobs!
Meanwhile, you trim the cake layers so that they are even and flat. It takes a lot of concentration!
Then it's just a matter of putting the whole thing together. Since you want to pipe the buttercream frosting around the edges and fill the center with the caramel mousse, one of my brilliant offspring came up with the idea to mark it off with toothpicks to help you know where to start and stop with the different frostings.
Once you've assembled all the layers, you cover the whole thing in a to-die-for dark chocolate ganache glaze.
And after all that work, a slice is divine--three layers of moist slightly nutty cake, not only creamy dreamy brown sugar buttercream frosting, but a melt-in-your-mouth caramel mousse filling, all covered by a dark chocolate ganache that is far more rich chocolate than sugary sweetness. This isn't a cake I'd make often due to the time factor, but it's definitely one I'll treasure and a fun team project! And don't be intimidated by the difficulty factor here in terms of picking up a copy of this cookbook. I've made other things and they are far simpler and more manageable-it's a great cookbook and beautiful to look at too!
Have a great weekend and spend a little time in the kitchen!
Chestnut Chocolate Layer Cake-Famous Fridays
Makes 12-14 servings
Prep Time: 2 days
For the cake layers
- 8 oz. whole roasted chestnuts
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chestnut four
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sour cream
For the Brown Sugar Buttercream
- 8 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, left out on counter overnight to soften
- pinch of fine sea salt
For the Caramel Mousse
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
For the Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (about 9 oz.)
- 9 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1. To make the cake layers, adjust oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Lightly spray three 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable cooking spray and line the bottoms only with rounds of parchment paper. Set aside.
2. To roast chestnuts, first score chestnuts all around with a sharp knife, going in about an 1/8 inch deep. Then place them on a baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes. When chestnuts are cool enough to handle but still hot, remove the shell and the papery skin. Allow to cool.
3. In a food processor, finely grind the cooled roasted chestnuts, the chestnut flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. If you have a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment, otherwise just use your regular electric mixer. Beat together the butter, brown sugar and regular sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the ground chestnut mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream. Mix until smooth.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and smooth the tops. Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake tops spring back when you touch them. Cool the cakes in the pans on racks until room temperature. Then invert with another rack, remove the parchment paper and invert again. When entirely cool, wrap cakes in plastic wrap so they don't dry out until you frost cake tomorrow.
6. To make the Caramel Sauce for the Caramel Mousse, place the sugar, salt, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan to boil. Cook until the mixture begins to turn deep brown, swirling it and lifting the pan off the flame to prevent burning. The original recipe says to bring it to 365 on a candy thermometer, but when I did that it burned, so I think your best bet is to go by trying to achieve a deep amber color. As soon as caramel looks done remove it from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, standing back in case it splatters. If there are any clumps, stir the mixture over a low flame to dissolve them. Then pour into a heatproof container, allow to cool a bit and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or overnight.
7. To Make Caramel Mousse: Place chilled caramel sauce, remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and mascarpone in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until the mixture thickens and becomes like soft whipped cream. Transfer to another bowl, cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. Wash mixing bowl and attachment.
8. To Make Buttercream frosting: Place egg whites, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at high speed until mixture is thick, glossy and tripled in volume for about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and the salt. When all the butter has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to high, whipping until the mixture is thick and totally smooth, for about 10 minutes. Set aside for up to 3 hours.
9. Trim the cake layers so that the tops are even. Place one layer on a cake plate prepared with four wax paper strips forming a square at the edges of the plate which you will pull out when the cake is done, so that the cake plate stays neat looking. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2 round tip and fill the bag with about 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Working at the edge of the cake, pipe about a 3/4 inch thick ring of frosting. Then fill the center with half of the caramel mousse mixture. Place a second cake layer on top and repeat with frosting and mousse. Place the third cake layer on top and carefully place the entire thing in the freezer for 1 hour.
10. Make the Dark Chocolate Ganache while the cake is chilling. Place the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chips and let stand for 2 minutes. Then gently whisk until smooth and transfer the mixture to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring. Let stand until just warmer than room temperature.
11. Once cake has chilled, remove from freezer and cover cake all over with remaining buttercream, using an offset spatula. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes until the frosting is set.
12. Carefully pour ganache over top of cake, letting it run down sides. Coat entire cake with ganache, smoothing it out. Let ganache set for at least 30 minutes before serving. Pull out wax paper liners and serve.
Note: Recipe adapted from Jenny McCoy's Desserts For Every Season.