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Chocolate Chestnut Cake

(Makes one 9-inch cake)
Chocolate Chestnut Cake
Chocolate Chestnut Cake is a luxurious holiday cake from Tuscany.  The chocolate and chestnut
filling has a dense fudge-like texture and the chocolate glaze is silky and smooth.  The garnish is
optional but makes a gorgeous presentation and a stunning dessert to end to any holiday meal.

You can roast your own chestnuts for the filling or purchase whole cooked and peeled chestnuts. 
I used  a canned chestnut spread to eliminate the extra step of roasting and pureeing the chestnuts.

3 ounces chocolate wafer cookies or chocolate graham crackers
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cake filling:
1 pound fresh or 10 ounces peeled whole chestnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons rum
3/4 cup espresso
6 tablespoons sugar, divided

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces heavy cream
2 ounces Kahlua or coffee liqueur

Garnish (optional):
8 to 10 lemon or similar leaves
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
5 to 6 whole peeled chestnuts
Gold pearl dust


To make the crust:
Process the chocolate cookies in a food processor until fine.
Add the butter. Process to combine.
Press the crumb mixture on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

To make the cake filling:
Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Roast or boil the fresh chestnuts until tender. Remove the peel and skin.
If you are using prepared chestnuts, you can skip that step.
Pass the chestnuts through a food mill or puree in a food processor.
Set the mixture aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large glass bowl. Microwave 1-2 minutes,
until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove and use a spoon to
thoroughly combine the chocolate and butter. Add the egg yolks, one at a time,
constantly mixing. Add the rum and mix again. Add the espresso and 5
tablespoons of sugar to the pureed chestnuts. Add the chocolate mixture to the
chestnut mixture. Stir until a very smooth and fairly thick batter forms.

Beat the egg whites with the remaining tablespoon of sugar until soft peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the chestnut and chocolate batter.
Pour the batter into the springform pan. Bake 45 minutes.
If the cake starts to get too brown, put a piece of foil over the top.
Remove the cake and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Open the springform pan and transfer the cake to a wire rack.

To make the glaze:
Put the chopped chocolate into bowl. Put the heavy cream into a microwave-safe
measuring cup. Microwave the cream for 1 minute. Pour the cream over the
chocolate in the bowl; add the Kahlua. Allow the mixture to sit for 2 minutes.
Stir until a thick pourable chocolate glaze forms. Place the cake on the wire rack
on a baking sheet to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over the top and sides of the
cake. Use a wooden spoon or offset spatula to get the glaze as smooth as
possible. Refrigerate the cake while you prepare the garnish or until serving time.

To make the garnish:
Wash and dry the lemon leaves. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Microwave the chocolate in a bowl on high for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. 
Microwave for a few extra seconds if the chocolate is not completely smooth.
Using a small pastry brush, brush the chocolate on the back side of the leaves.
Wipe off any excess chocolate on the edges of the leaves or the leaves will be
difficult to peel. Place the leaves on the prepared baking sheet. Place the leaves
in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

Carefully peel the leaves off the chocolate starting at the stem ends.
If the chocolate starts to melt and become difficult to peel, return to the
refrigerator for a few minutes. With a small soft bristle brush, brush some of the
gold pearl dust on the edges of the leaves. Also brush the pearl dust over the
surface of the chestnuts. Place the leaves and chestnuts back on the baking
sheet and refrigerate until firm. Arrange the chestnuts and leaves on the cake.
Keep the cake refrigerated until serving.
Chocolate Chestnut Cake
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When a recipe calls for chopped chocolate,
get out your serrated knife.  Its teeth break
up the chocolate quickly and easily, and
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