‘Chestnut puree?’ I said, standing in a French supermarket and holding, appropriately enough, four baguettes and a big slab of cheese, ‘what would we need a whacking great tin of chestnut puree for?’

‘All sorts’, said the Other Half, ‘Trust me’.

I wasn’t convinced, but he’d let me buy the white fig jam despite serious misgivings, so I capitulated. In the end, I dumped the whole lot into two chestnut chocolate cakes from Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and my, that turned out to be the best decision I’d made in a while. Not only is this a cake for dummies as far as recipe difficulty goes, it’s a cake that tastes so fabulous you can pretend you’re actually good at baking. What a win.

Of course, today happened to be the day that even the simplicity of this cake eluded me. All seemed to go well at first. I promoted the Other Half to Cakery Assistant in order to speed things up a bit, and then rather meanly gave him the most complicated job of separating the eggs. The first couple of eggs ended up being put aside for breakfast, after his daring egg-blowing technique accidentally blew the yolk out with the whites. Luckily I’d bought quite a few eggs.

A master at work

The general egginess of this is down to the fact that there’s no flour in the recipe, so for height and general substance the cake relies on whisked egg whites, which are folded into the chestnut-chocolate-butter mix at the end. It sounds quite complicated, but actually whipping egg whites is much less nerve-wracking than whipping double cream, which I manage to churn into an inedible cheesy lump every time I make the attempt (does anyone know whether it keeps whipping itself after you’ve stopped?). In the oven the cake rises, souffle-style, and comes out cracked and dry-looking with moussy chocolate loveliness underneath.

Or at least, that’s what happened last week. Today… I don’t know whether it was baking fatigue or my headache or the unpredictability of my new oven, but I managed to produce a cake that was too dry on the outside and too moist (wet, even) on the inside. It looks good, and it’s not like it tastes revolting, but oh, I know you, chocolate chestnut cake, and you can be SO much better. Go the distance, man. I believe in you.

PS – please don’t let my ineptitude put you off making this. It really is amazingly good. And you can buy chestnut puree quite easily in larger supermarkets even without going to France.

Deliciousness: Today, only Quite Good. On other occasions and in more capable hands, the Best Cake Ever.

Complexity: A short list of ingredients makes for an easy twenty-minute preparation. As long as you don’t try egg-blowing.

Washing-up pile: Thirteen large and sticky items, plus kitchen and self flecked with little bits of hardened egg-white. Attempt when feeling energetic, or delegate to a willing volunteer.

Casualties: A small amount of wounded pride.

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