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Italian christmas chocolate cake with chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts
You will need:
175g (6oz) unsalted butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
325g (11 ½oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
50g (2oz) shelled walnuts, halved
50g (2oz) blanched almonds
75g (3oz) shelled hazelnuts
5 large eggs, separated
150g (5 ½oz) cooked chestnuts, broken into chunks
grated rind of 1 large orange
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g (2oz) ground almonds
icing sugar for dusting or good-quality plain chocolate
plus a few shelled hazelnuts and walnuts for decoration
Melt the butter and sugar in a bowl set over simmering water, then add the chocolate, and melt it in the warm butter and sugar mixture, stirring to help it dissolve. Take it off the heat and let it cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°f/gas mark 4. Toast the nuts, except the chestnuts, in a dry pan, taking care they don’t burn. Break the nuts up very roughly – you want a mixture of large and smaller chunks, not chopped nuts.
Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture with the toasted nuts, chestnuts, orange rind and cinnamon. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Loosen the chocolate mixture by folding in 1 large spoonful of egg white, then fold in the rest, along with the ground almonds. Mix lightly so that you don’t knock out the air. Pour into a buttered 20cm (8 inch) spring-form cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Leave the cake in the tin to cool for 20 minutes, then unclasp the spring-surround and remove the cake from the base. This is quite a fragile cake, with a mousse-like middle, so handle it carefully.
The top will deflate and crack a little as the cake cools, but that’s fine. Dust with icing sugar. Alternatively, if you want a glossy finish, melt some chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Spread the melted chocolate on to the cake and let it set. Roughly chop some hazelnuts and walnuts and scatter over the top.