Chestnut Cream Cake with Poached Pears: Step by Step

2006-10-07

For my Grandma's 80th birthday dinner, I made a chestnut cake from a recipe that I had wanted to try for a long time. The addition of poached pear was an addition inspired by cream cakes from Chinese bakeries which often have fruit cocktail in them. Forthwith, the procedure:

Poached PearsIn the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley provided a recipe for the pears. The poaching liquid includes white wine, sugar, ginger and vanilla. My Clapp pears were of different ripeness (ripenesses?) so I planned to use the softer ones for the filling, and the less ripe ones for a garnish.
 
Chestnut Pastry CreamThe cake recipe came from the Christmas 1994 issue of Gusto!. To make the chestnut cream, pastry cream is mixed together with unsweetened chestnut purée. One unusual thing about this recipe is that it calls for whipping the yolks with sugar until ribbony before added scalded milk and flour. The purée was very dry and I ended up using a hand blender to incorporate the chestnut into the pastry cream.
 
Splitting the cake layersThe cake is a sponge cake in which the whole eggs and sugar are warmed, then whipped until tripled in volume. The recipe calls for a 10" round cake pan but I baked it in an 8" pan at a slightly lower oven temperature. Splitting the cake into 4 layers wasn't too bad, but you can see the crumb isn't very fine so there were cake bits everywhere.
 
Assembled cakeHere is the assembled cake before masking. I added some diced poached pears to the middle layer.
 
Chestnut Cream Cake with Poached Pears (1)Because we were taking the cake to a restaurant, I made stabilized whipped cream for added insurance. You can see I did a poor job with masking. Cake decorating isn't something I practise that often, nor is it something I have a particular inclination towards. The recipe's garnish is toasted sliced almonds and some ground chocolate. To that, I added a poached pear fan and rosettes made from the pastry cream.
 
Chestnut Cream Cake with Poached Pears (2)The cake was well received, even though it came after a heavy meal of around 10 courses. The sponge cake was a little tough likely from overmixing or overbaking. However, the chestnut filling is excellent, perhaps a little subtle. I'm very pleased with the addition of poached pears: they added a wonderful contrast in texture and flavour.

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