The Musette: Corsican chestnut and almond cake

This week’s recipe, for one of my cycling club staples, hails from the beautiful island of Corsica, where I enjoyed my first trip with the club back in 2007 just after acquiring my first road bike. We cycled on some of the roads which will feature in the first three stages of this year’s 100th Tour de France. The scenery is gorgeous, the countryside unspoilt and the roads are relatively quiet. In short, it’s a great spot for a cycling vacation.

Corsica (image: Tourist Office)

Corsica (Image: Tourist Office)

The flour I’ve used in the cake was thoughtfully provided by a club mate who hails from the island, the flour is milled from chestnuts from his trees. It’s a moist sandy-coloured cake with a delicate nutty flavour, just the thing you’d like to find in your back pocket or to enjoy with a post-ride cuppa of your beverage of choice.

The chestnut flour is the star of the show (image: Sheree)

The chestnut flour is the star of the show (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (cuts into 32 small slices)

  • 125g (1¼ cups) natural cane sugar
  • 125g (1 stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 4 medium organic eggs, approx 40g (1½oz) each without their shells
  • 125g (1½ cups) chestnut flour
  • 125g (1⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk or milk
  • 100g (⅔ cup) flaked almonds
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof (parchment) paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. The French prefer to have a small taste of everything on offer!

3. Beat the sugar with the butter and buttermilk until pale and fluffy, add in the eggs one at a time and beat well to incorporate. If the mixture looks like curdling just add a tablespoon of plain (all-purpose) flour.

4. Sift the flours, salt, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl, add most of the flaked almonds, reserving some to scatter over the top of the cake, stir to combine. Spoon the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix gently until just combined. Do not overmix.

5. Pour the soft-dropping consistency batter into the tin, smooth the top and scatter the reserved flaked almonds. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tin and your oven, so check regularly. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes in the pan before lifting out of the tin to cool on a wire rack. The cake will sit happily in a tin for several days (providing my beloved is not at home) or in the freezer for no more than two months.

chestnut cake

Where’s the tea or coffee pot? (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.

4. Always use fresh chestnut flour (ie not any past its sell-by date) otherwise the cake will have a sour taste.

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