Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chocolate and chestnut truffle cake


Who would've thought, when I walked into that office more than 15 years ago for an interview, that those rooms would become such a meaningful place in all our lives?

So much happened there, good and bad: that desk is where I got the call from my husband about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center; I remember calling family and friends before the lines were disconnected, to make sure they were safe. That is where one of us faced the ugly C word, another one of us announced the creation of two lives that were then prematurely lost. But it is also where I planned my wedding and then showed my honeymoon pictures. Where friendships bloomed.

The first person I saw while sitting in the hallway waiting for my interview became my wedding witness and lifelong friend; well, more of a soulmate than a friend if you ask me. We were born and grew up in the same city but our destiny was to meet on another continent. She lives across the Ocean now, but we are as close as if she were still sleeping over on the tiny Ikea couch of the first apartment F and I called home.

One day a Texan at heart walked into those rooms to make and enquiry and never left (the premises or my affection).

The pretty blonde, a real English rose, I sat down and chatted with nervously during that interview is the kind of friend I don't need to see or talk to that often to call her that.

The awesome Tasmanian with the beautiful mane of fiery red hair (to match her creative spirit and the clementines below) and the voice of a black blues singer moved back home recently and took a little piece of all our hearts with her when she did (together with two very precious things she had been waiting for for the longest time, her daughters).

The only true Italian of the gang, a good friend and enthusiastic follower of this little blog, contributed the right touch of Mediterranean character with her contagious laughter and loud chatter to this group of Americans (yes, Canadians included), Brits, Southafricans, Barbadians, Kiwis, Aussies etc. (you name it, we had it) .


What did we have in common at the beginning? Not much really, except we all spoke English. And yeah, were were all young(er), funloving and a good looking bunch if you ask me. But that was it. We came from different cultures, backgrounds and educations. We had different interests, friends, aims.

But we clicked.

I think we all realized to what extent when we separated a few years later.

In time, the evenings spent in front of pitchers of margarita (I am still paying for that night) or downing a few too many vodkas (even those who stated to have never gotten drunk - and you know who you are - are still paying for that party), the late night drives down country roads to hidden-away biker hangouts, the Halloween parties and summer barbecues gave way to weddings, baby showers and family brunches.

Most of us have moved away, others will be moving soon, some closer and some farther. But almost two decades later we still get together whenever possible.

Now we are parents, we party a little less and change diapers a little more. We may be scattered all over the world and have a wrinkle or two, but inside we are the same people and when we are together we connect.

This is a cake I made to celebrate the visit of our "Australian connection". It is the kind of cake you make for a festive occasion, a large group of people. It is rich and decadent and a slice is enough to satisfy your longing for chocolate. Well, unless you are my daughter. Yes, the one who doesn't usually eat my desserts, she had two. If she liked it and if the recipe comes from this girl, then you know you have a keeper.

400gr chestnuts (precooked)
100gr brown sugar
100gr butter
100gr dark chocolate
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp whiskey (or other spirit)

100gr dark chocolate
25g salted butter (I used plain and added a pinch of salt)
2 tbsp cream

First of all, line a small loaf tin with Saran wrap. I used a medium sized tin, because that is all I possess, and it worked fine but the cake will naturally turn out a little flatter.
Blend the chestnuts (I bought precooked ones) and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Process less for a grainier texture. Melt the chocolate in a pan with butter and milk on low heat, mixing until you obtain a smooth sauce and then mix in the vanilla extract and whiskey.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the food processor and mix with the chestnuts and sugar until well combined. Then pour into the tin and cover with more Saran wrap. Let chill in the fridge for 24 hrs. To be honest, I only let it sit overnight but in the morning the cake was firm.
At this point, turn the cake out onto a flat surface and peel off the plastic wrap. In the meantime, start gently melting the chocolate, butter and cream for the coating. Once it is ready, spread it over the cake until fully covered. When you are done, return it to the fridge to set for another couple of hours or until you are ready to serve. A few minutes before serving, move the cake onto a serving dish and slice.


  1. Aw you're too kind! So pleased you, and your daughter, liked it so much. I have to say I'm a girl after her own heart and could happily eat two slices in one sitting, with the aid of a little vanilla ice cream to cut through the richness :-)

  2. I do envy you your great (former)colleagues. It happens sometimes that you just meet a bunch of extraordinay people all in one go and they are going to be your friends for ages.

    I also do envy you this chocolate and chestnut cake. It looks decadent.

  3. I love this..Thanks for the recipe..This looks mouthwatering


  4. It is rare to hear someone speak of their workplace or their colleagues in this fashion- what a blessing for you.
    You are torturing me with this cake!!!

  5. LL - I'm glad I am not the only person who believes firmly that vanilla ice cream cuts through richness...and helps me digest a heavy meal by the way.
    LaCR - I can only hope you get as lucky at work, but you don't have to be envious of the cake now that you have the recipe ;o)
    Aarthi - hope you try it
    Nicole - yes, it was a lucky coincidence.If only you knew how often you torture me...

  6. It's so lovely when you all just click. That happened to me when I lived in Japan and I met the other teachers that I was teaching with. Sadly we don't really keep in touch-I did find one on facebook though! ;) Gorgeous cake-so chocolatey rich but so moreish too!

  7. How fun! I can't remember a place where I worked that I would want to write longingly about~this cake sounds awesome! My daughter is just roasting chestnuts as we speak, bet she would love the idea of turning them into a cake!

  8. Would like to write in Italian because, as Italian, I know that I could explain what I would like to say better but for make every follower of this blog understand how a beautiful person you are, I will try to explain in English.
    All the things you wrote are correct and this is the matter why a lot of us stayed there so much time (even if there were problems too, was not all good and beautiful moments), who you missed in your descritpion is the American freckled blonde girl, the more precise and perfectionist of us, always ready for a chat and a laugh but ready to start to hardly work (and without any disturb) when needed :-) We always say how awesome was and is our relationship (especially because husbands too have a good feeling each other) and what I hope for the future is that we could maintain this friendshipe pure and intact as it is now, in despite of distance, children, problems and in general daily life.
    I love all you girls really a lot....Barbs

    1. Friendship forever Barbs! Big love, A x

  9. It's always nice to have a good group of coworker or friends and it is great when you manage to keep in touch despite the many miles separating you.

    And your cake looks just delicious!

  10. Lorraine - maybe it has something to do with a bunch of young people in a foreign country without old friends and family close by...you just sort of become second family. I hope you can one day reunite with your Japanese gang.
    ToB - oh my, imagine the added flavor the roasted chestnuts would give! Let me know if she does turn them into this cake.
    Barbs - thank you for such a wonderful comment and for your sweet words. You expressed it fine in English, the affection definitely comes through. Each and every one of us made that adventure special. If our friendship lasted this long, I am sure it will continue for many more years. xxx
    Pola - I agree, we are lucky!

  11. It's a recipe I've got sternly bookmarked to try. I know exactly what you mean about work friends staying with you, long after you left. There are few things I miss about my old life in offices in Sydney- but the conversations over tea, or commiserations over cocktails are chief among them.

  12. Oh what a lovely story. Connections of any sort are special, but sometimes the group of people you're brought together with under specific circumstances (e.g. work) come to mean so much more. Those magical little coincidences, the memories, the hardships, the arguments, the sweet treats shared.

    Wonderful. Wonderful work friends, wonderful treats.

  13. I love this post. What beautiful, heartwarming stories. All in one place. Funny how life connects us to different histories and individuals that way.

  14. Tori - we don't always get that lucky, but in general I can't complain. I have worked and work with some pretty awesome people.
    Meister - connections are what make work bearable day in and day out, even on the toughest ones. True.
    Sophia - it is always amazing to look back and see how one person or episode changed your life unexpectedly. And it is also interesting how the work place opens you up to new experiencs because you can't choose who you work with and sometimes that can be a good thing, broadening your horizon.

  15. Thank you for the lovely compliment! I must admit The ‘english rose’ is feeling more like a ‘frenzied mamma’ nowadays! I really enjoyed reading your post – a great trip down memory lane ;-) I’d forgotten all about the interview – to think that you were actually nervous is funny, looking back now. Wow, it seems so long ago. I feel very blessed to have you all as friends, and I treasure the fact we’ve shared in beautiful and important moments of each others lives – weddings, babies etc. I love the fact that even if we don’t see each other often, as soon as we’re all in a room together we just click and it’s just like old times. It’s really nice (& comforting) to see all our husbands (& now kids!) getting on with other so well too.

    Back to the cake….so as the ‘host’ of this get together I testify that this was a real treat. I’m a huge chocolate fan so when this was revelled (from under a very professional looking cake-carrier), my eyes lit up :-)
    Apart from the wonderful taste – truly scrumptious - it’s also a very practical dessert – you can make it the day before, it travels well, feeds many mouths, kids love it and it can easily be eaten with a napkin. I can’t hide the fact I was quite content that a few slices were left over and my husband and I scoffed them with much pleasure the evening after :-)

    Big thumbs up to long-living friendships and chocolate and chestnut truffle cake!
    A x

  16. ... and the chocolate and chestnut truffle cake complimented the company on the day ... decadent and textured without that ‘overdone’ feeling (a fine balance that has come with age and the responsibility of having kids around - not long ago the ‘over done’ feeling would have been a cert - at least on my part - can I say that here?).

    yes its true this company of friends and colleagues developed a special bond that has endured quite a lot ... not to be underestimated or undervalued! I think you have had a lot to do with that ... Im talking to you, author ... for one, your curious, mischievous ‘proddings’ led us all to open up and share our vulnerable musings and you appreciated every one of those disclosures with mirth and appreciation ... that openness you instigated will remain. Thanks for the recipe. Lots of love to the whole gang xxxxxxxxxs


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