Piemontese Mocha-Chestnut Torte

Piemontese Mocha-Chestnut Torte

Rich and dark, this moist cake—which is more like a chocolate-chestnut pudding than a cake—combines the sophisticated Piemontese mountain flavors of chestnuts, espresso, and dark chocolate. The trio of ingredients is found in many forms in Piedmont and its capital city of Torino (Turin). I have traveled in this far northern part of Italy several times, enjoying its richly indulgent, old-fashioned, French-influenced food, most recently as a delegate to the Slow Food Terra Madre, a gathering of producers and chefs from around the world. Dense, sweet, and starchy chestnut cream substitutes here for flour making it a wonderful celebration cake for anyone who follows a gluten-free diet.

Ingredients
  

Torte

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 500 gram (17½-ounce) can sweetened chestnut purée
  • ½ pound 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs separated
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground espresso or finely ground dark roast coffee
  • teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ pound (¾ cup) chestnut flour
  • ½ cup sugar

Glaze and Decoration

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • ¼ cup hot brewed espresso
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum substitute brandy, bourbon, or more coffee
  • 2 ounces ½ stick unsalted butter softened
  • ¼ cup chocolate-covered espresso beans optional for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Make the torte: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round removable-bottom or springform cake pan with nonstick baker’s coating, or rub with softened butter and dust with flour, shaking off the excess.
  • Place the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave on lowest power for 2 minutes at a time, or until just barely melted. Whisk until smooth and cool to room temperature.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the chestnut purée with the butter until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then add the ground espresso, salt, and vanilla. Fold in the chocolate and the chestnut flour and transfer to a wide shallow bowl.
  • In the clean and greaseless bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until fluffy, then add the sugar and continue beating until the whites are firm and glossy, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold into the chestnut mixture in thirds so as not to deflate the meringue.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the pan and shake back and forth several times to smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake rises somewhat and looks dry and slightly cracked on top. (The center should be soft but not liquid). Cool in the pan for 1 hour on a wire rack, or until it has reached room temperature. Invert the cake onto a 9-inch cake cardboard or onto the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan. Place the cake onto a wire cake rack over a baking pan.
  • Make the glaze: Place the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and melt on low power in the microwave, 2 minutes at a time, or until just barely melted. Add the espresso and whisk together until the chocolate melts completely and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Whisk in the rum and butter and allow the glaze to cool until it is thick enough to hold its shape.
  • Spoon the glaze over the cake, using an icing spatula to spread it evenly over the top and sides. Use the spatula to swirl the icing in a decorative pattern on top of the cake. Arrange the chocolate-covered espresso beans around the outside edge of the cake.
  • Chill the cake for 30 minutes in the refrigerator or until the glaze is set. Cut into portions using a knife dipped into hot water and wiped dry in between each cut and taking care not to drip any water onto the icing (which will cause unsightly spots). Store covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days. (You may freeze the cake before icing it for up to 3 months.)