Walnut Chocolate Cake

I wanted to end my Piemonte-themed wine and food evenings with a nice dessert. The first thing I thought of was bounet, but I had already made that before for a similar evening so I asked my friend Resi (who is from Piemonte and helps me with my blog in Italian) for suggestions. She suggested a walnut cake with chocolate pastry cream as typical dessert from Piemonte. That sounded great and like a good combination for the barolo chinato I had made.

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The resulting cake was absolutely delicious. It has a very full walnut flavor and it’s not surprise that the chocolate pastry cream was nice as well. If you like dark chocolate, you can add cocoa powder to the chocolate cream to give it a more hefty chocolate flavor. The resulting cake will pair better with the barolo chinato. 

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I started the Piemonte evenings by serving a zero dosage sparkling wine from Piemonte, which is made just like champagne and from the same grapes, but in Piemonte and without adding any sugar (hence the zero). As antipasto we had bagna càuda with a white erbaluce and a red dolcetto.

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The first primo was agnolotti with barbera, followed by the second primo of risotto with barolo, paired with Roero on the first night and Barbaresco on the second. For a secondo brasato al barolo with fennel gratin as the contorno and Barolo as matched wine. And finally this cake as dolce.

Ingredients

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For the cake

300 grams (3 1/2 cups) walnut kernels

250 grams (1 1/2 cup) pastry flour

250 grams (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp) butter

175 grams (7/8 cup) sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 tsp  baking powder

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For the chocolate pastry cream

125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream

125 ml (1/2 cup) milk

60 grams (1/3 cup) sugar

10 grams (1 Tbsp) flour

10 grams (1 Tbsp) corn starch

60 grams egg yolks (about 4 yolks)

60 grams (1/3 cup) dark chocolate chips

60 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder (optional)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation of the chocolate pastry cream

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Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan.

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Heat this mixture to scalding hot but not quite boiling.

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In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.

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Add sifted flour and corn starch.

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Whisk until the mixture is smooth.

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Add a bit of the hot cream mixture and whisk to temper the egg yolks.

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Slowly add the remaining hot cream mixture, whisking until all of it has been incorporated.

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Here comes the tricky part. Heat this mixture, stirring, until it boils. It will thicken very quickly, but it will also burn very quickly.

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Now add the vanilla extract, the chocolate chips, and the cocoa powder (if using) to the warm mixture.

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Mix until the chocolate has melted.

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Cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic touches the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Put this in the fridge to allow to cool.

Preparation of the cake

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Toast the walnuts in the oven preheated at 180ºC/350ºF for 10 minutes.

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Set aside 16 of the best looking walnut kernels to use for decorating the cake later.

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Ground the remaining walnuts with 50 grams (4 Tbsp) of the sugar in the food processor.

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Add the butter, flour, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and remaining sugar.

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Process until the batter is homogenous.

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Butter a springform pan of 20-24 cm (8-9″) and sprinkle with flour.

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Pour in the batter and even out the surface with a wet spoon.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes at 180ºC/350ºF (without fan, or 160ºC/320ºF with fan), until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Allow the cake to cool.

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When the cake is cool, cut into two layers with a large serrated knife. This is quite tricky as the cake falls apart easily, so you could also bake the batter in two pans to make this easier.

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Spread out half the chocolate pastry cream on the lower layer of the cake.

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Leave about 1 cm (1/2″) bare at the borders, so the cream won’t leak out as much when you add the second layer.

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Add the second layer and cover it with the remaining pastry cream.

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Even out the pastry cream with a palette knife.

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Decorate the cake with the walnuts you had set aside.

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Cut the cake into 8 large or 16 small slices.

Wine pairing

The cake pairs well with Barolo Chinato if you add cocoa powder to the pastry cream. If you don’t, then I would recommend a passito. We stayed in Piemonte for this as well, and enjoyed the cake with a very nice Erbaluce di Caluso Passito.

Flashback

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Two years ago, on 4 December 2011, I explained how to make fresh pasta from scratch. This is still how I make it, except that I have started using my stand mixer to knead the dough instead of doing that by hand. Homemade fresh pasta made from scratch is amazing, especially if you stuff it yourself to make ravioli and the like.

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27 thoughts on “Walnut Chocolate Cake

  1. Argh – I just had an enormous dinner, and decided to browse around while sitting around, completely stuffed … came across this and now I am hungry again! Looks delicious!

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  2. Great post Stefan. You guys obviously had a lot of fun.
    On the Flashback, I have been making my pasta following your method (to the horror of some Italian friends) since reading the post. It works wonderfully well.
    Best,
    Conor

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  3. Ciao Stefan,la tua torta sembra buonissima!Complimenti per la precisione con cui spieghi le ricette.Secondo te se invece della crema pasticcera al cioccolato metto una ganache al cioccolato fondente viene buona lo stesso?(ti scrivo su questo blog in italiano perchè non sono riuscita a lasciare il commento su quello italiano e il mio inglese non è molto buono).Grazie .Ciao!

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  4. Hi, Stefan,

    What an amazing party you had. So many courses that you have – with delicious food and drink. I am quite intrigued by your Champagne without residual sugars. It sounds delicious – I prefer sparkling wines on the dry side. We are very lucky to live in New Mexcio, as their is a lovely French “Champagne” brand that is delicious and affordable. The Gruet family came here from France and makes the most amazing sparkling wine called Gruet “Savage.” It is an interesting story:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/dining/16newmex.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    On to more important things: your cake. Obviously it looks completely delicious! I like that you suggest twice that cocoa can be added to the pastry cream. I will definitely do this to make the cake even more cocoa forward. The making of the pastry cream looks very fun! I don’t know why, but I enjoy tempering egg yolks. There is something magical about the chemistry, I suppose. Your recipe looks very versatile, too – I suppose that one could even use noisettes or pecans if walnuts were not available.

    Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to making this, for certain. As for your wine pairing, what is “Erbaluce di Caluso Passito” like it taste and body? Take good care. Also, the Italian blog looks great. You are very passionate about Italian food – that is wonderful.

    It really is almost the weekend now! 😉

    Best wishes,
    Shanna

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  5. Needless to say, your cake looks stunning! I was surprised by the fact that you added the chocolate chips to the mixture after taking it off the burner. I have to try your way! 🙂

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  6. That dinner party must have been wonderful, Stefan. You treated your guests to a real feast! This cake was a fitting end. I love the combination of walnut with chocolate and would be sure to find this cake delicious.

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  7. Pingback: Ravioli with Gorgonzola in Foie Gras Sauce | Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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