Christmas pudding is not to everyone’s taste and I for one am happy enough to not partake in that particular tradition. For those of us who are not so keen on dried fruit based puddings, but who also suffer from food sensitivities, there is another option. Chestnuts are such a wonderfully versatile ingredient. Being both packed full of flavour and Christmas spirit it seemed only right to make something of them for this coming season. I like to throw cooked and peeled chestnuts into bakes, rice dishes, salads and even pasta but it is only on rare occasion that I use their sweetly made sister, crème de marrons. It is, essentially, a sweetened chestnut puree, usually with the addition of both sugar and vanilla. The result is an intense and velvety mixture which possesses not the subtlest of hints of decadence. I have known some rather incredible ice creams to be made with it and it makes a rather delectable patisserie filling, but in this case I am using it in both the content of a cake and as part of the topping.
This is a truly irresistible cake, although perhaps cake is a little misleading. It is delicate cake base, almost as thin as a tart, with rich ganache topping. If you can save room for it, it makes for a wonderful Christmas day pudding. A small slice of this intensely flavoured sponge and velvety topping is a lovely finish to any celebratory feast. Knowing that there may be another slice to be had the following day is almost as much of a treat. Saying that, this really is best served soon after making – it is at its best while still slightly warm from the oven, hence my cheek at calling a cake a pudding. You could serve it as it is with a cup of coffee, or make more of a meal of it by adding a light pouring of oat cream. After all, Christmas is a time for indulgence.
You can buy creme de marrons from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and any good health food store. If in doubt, there are numerous suppliers on line who will deliver the next day, although perhaps not in our current snow!
CHESTNUT AND CHOCOLATE CAKE
You will need an 8 inch round cake tin with removable base
For the cake
150g crème de marrons (sweetened chestnut puree)
110g butter replacement – Pure Sunflower Spread
2 eggs – 4 tbsp ground flax seed, ¼ tsp baking powder mixed together with 6 tbsp water
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
6 tbsp rice milk
A very small pinch of salt
For the ganache
100g crème de marrons
75g dark chocolate – dairy and soya free
Preheat the oven to 170c (150c Fan) and grease and line your cake tin. Make up the egg replacement by whisking together the ground flax seeds, baking powder and water until blended (note: do not use the extra 1 ½ tsp of baking powder that is needed for the cake), then set aside for a few minutes, the flax will swell up and absorb the water so that you are left with a paste rather than a liquid.
Next, whisk together the butter replacement and chestnut puree until pale, light and fluffy. Add the egg/flax mixture, a bit at a time, whisking as you go, until fully incorporated into the puree. Sift in the chestnut flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder then use a large metal spoon to cut and fold the flour into the puree. Once you have about half of the flour folded in, add the rice milk and continue to cut and fold until fully combined. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin, level the top with the back of your spoon and bake in the oven for 35 minutes until risen and springy to the light touch – you can always test with a knife point or cocktail stick.
Remove from the oven and transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile place a Perspex bowl over a small saucepan of boiling water. Break up the chocolate into the bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, smooth and glossy. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the chestnut puree until combined with the chocolate. Once the cake is only a little a warm, spoon over the chocolate and chestnut ganache and then serve.