Classic Italian Chestnut Coffee Torta is a popular Tuscan cake, of chestnuts, cacao, and coffee, laced with a little rum, and chocolate, if you must!
Chestnuts of Italy
I could not help but to set the stage, for this simple yet divine torta recipe, that I created just for you, by quoting the words from 2009 Italy Magazine:
“Hanging by a thread, off laden branches, chestnuts sparkle like dark jewels. They look like huge, fat raindrops, and gleam with a perfect deep brown gloss against the golden spines of the half-open burrs that hold them.
Deep inside – wrapped securely in the shiny peel’s firm cocoon, sheltered by oat colored remains of the prickly burrs – the straw-yellow core is ripening, getting ready to yield its sweet, nutty flavor to the voracious embrace of a roasting pan.”
Chestnuts In My Kitchen
As long as I can remember, my mother always bought lots of chestnuts in the autumn for recipes she loved all winter long.
I’m not sure if the tradition of roasting the chestnuts, and then sitting around to table together to peel them, is what I enjoyed most, or simply the eating of them.
While I don’t remember my mom making desserts out of the chestnuts, I still, to this day, love the Chestnut Sage Stuffing she always made with a turkey.
In fact, I took this chestnut stuffing memory all the way to national television, when I had the opportunity to prepare it on The Great American Recipe, on PBS!
Making flour out of most nuts, grains and seeds is as easy as blitzing them in a food processor or blender.
However, in order to make flour out of fresh chestnuts, we need to roast and peel them, before we can use them.
Often times now, chestnuts can be purchased already roasted and peeled, in airtight bags or jars.
I’m not crazy about them already prepared, simply because I don’t know how old they are, but they work in a pinch.
At the onset of November, throughout America, chestnuts start popping up in the markets and I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to cook with chestnut flour.
How To Make Chestnut Flour
When they become available, I often buy several pounds of them, take the extra time to prep the chestnut flour for further recipes throughout the holiday season, and then tuck a little away in the freezer.
Prepping them, is the key, and here is how I approach it, so they are easier to peel, which is the same thing I do with Oak Acorns laying on my ground in autumn:
- On the tops of each chestnut, take a sharp knife and pierce through the soft shell, to make a small X.
- Get a pot of water boiling and set the oven to 350.
- Drop the chestnuts into boiling water for just 5-minutes, scoop them out and place on a baking sheet.
- Roast them in the oven until the X area begins to shrink and peel back, about 20-minutes.
- Cool, peel and they are ready to leave whole or grind into flour.
Substitutes For Chestnuts
While I wouldn’t say there is another nut that resembles the meaty texture or gently sweet flavor of chestnuts, I would probably opt to use hazelnuts if pressed to substitute.
The positive aspect to substituting with hazelnuts is that they don’t need the prep step to get them ready.
Sometimes you can find hazelnuts already shelled, or you may just need to shell them yourself, but that step is rather easy.
Coffee In My Baking
Did you know that coffee beans, when freshly ground and boiled, emit a lovely hint of oil that adds moisture to baked goods?
I almost never bake Cupcakes or muffins, without putting coffee, instead of other liquids, in the batter.
Since they are small, they bake fast, therefore I find they can dry out quickly.
In fact, I even created a Coffee Muffin, to showcase coffee as the flavor in every bite, but you will have to take a look inside my cookbook, My Muffin Madness, I recently published.
The flavor, of course, is an asset, but more than the flavor, I find that the coffee makes the cake more moist than if I used milk.
What Is A Torta?
What’s in a word, that it sounds similar in so many languages?
The word torta in Italy and Macedonia, torte in Albania, and tort in Romania all mean ‘Cake’!
In Italy, a torta often includes crushed nuts and lots of eggs in its ingredients.
Since I often think of Italy, when I think of chestnuts, I am calling this lovely cake, a Torta!
Classic Tuscan Chestnut Torta
When visiting New York City, throughout December, on nearly every corner you will smell the heavenly aroma of chestnuts being roasted over coals.
The same can be said throughout cities in Italy. Chestnuts, in Italy, are incorporated into so many recipes.
But it’s the tortas of Italy that I enjoyed most, when they are made with nuts or dried fruits.
Italians have a lovely way of making cakes that are not as sweet as they are here in America. You could almost want them for breakfast with a cup of coffee!
How To Make Chestnut Coffee Torta
This recipe is so easy to make and only requires a little extra work of grinding the oat flour and chestnut flour in a food processor.
Once the flour has been prepared, the egg whites are separated from the yolks, and whipped until light and airy.
Then the cooled, melted butter, egg yolks and sugar are whisked together. The dry ingredients folded in, followed by the whipped egg whites, gently folded in.
Once the torta has baked, the topping of your choice, chocolate or a simple rum glaze, is brushed on, followed by a sprinkle of crushed chestnuts.
Of course, melted chocolate lathered across the top will make for a spectacular topping on this torta, especially since we will be using a little cacao in the cake itself, but we have options.
To serve the torta less as a dessert and more for an afternoon coffee or perhaps a weekend brunch, we can top it with something more gentle.
Whisk together a simple glaze of rum and powdered sugar with sprinkled chestnuts on top and it looks lovely, while allowing the chestnuts to remain the star.
- Removable bottom tart pan – these lovely pans come in various sizes, this torte uses a 9-inch but I also bought the 3-inch for many other individual servings.
- Mixing bowl
- Wire whisk
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Food processor or blender – for crushing chestnuts and oats
- Small saucepan – for melting butter and chocolate, if using
- Chestnuts or chestnut flour
- Rolled oats or oat flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Instant espresso
- Powdered sugar – optional
- Chocolate – optional
Classic Italian Chestnut Coffee Torta
- 9-inch removable bottom torte pan
- food processor to grind nuts and oats
- 4 Eggs separated
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 8 oz Butter melted, cooled
- 1 cup Chestnut flour (notes) extra for garnish
- 1 cup Oat flour (notes)
- 2 tsp Baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Instant espresso
- 1 tbsp Raw Cacao
- 1/2 cup Rum
- 2 tbsp Rum
- 2 tbsp Powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp Chestnuts ground
- 4 oz Chocolate melted
- Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a removable bottom tart pan with non-stick spray.
- Whip the egg whites and set them aside.
- Melt the butter and cool. Once cooled, whisk in the sugar and egg yolks until creamy.
- Whisk in the chestnut flour, oat flour, baking powder, soda and salt, espresso and cacao, until creamy. Whisk in the rum. Fold in the whipped egg whites.
- Transfer to the prepared baking pan and bake until firm to the touch, about 50 minutes.
- For a topping, either mix the rum and powdered sugar together, brush across the top of the cake and sprinkle ground chestnuts, or melt chocolate, pour across the top of the cake and sprinkle with crushed chestnuts.