It was a long and lonely winter break this year. I spent the majority of it cooped up in the house, feverishly attempting to finish university applications, write an essay for English class, study for the upcoming English and Math exams, cram for that biology test, and read three novels (one of which was in French). Suffice to say, I managed to procrastinate more than anything.
In fact, my Christmas present to myself was two uninterrupted hours so that I might catch up on reading. It was a Christmas Day well spent because after what feels like two million years, I’m finally, finally done reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, all 964 pages of it. I love reading; usually I finish moderately long books in one sitting. But War and Peace gave me a run for my money. After this year-long affair, I’m glad to be able to say that it’s done and that I did it.
Don’t get me wrong: War and Peace is a really epic book and it’s no wonder that it’s a classic. The immensity of the work in itself is impressive in that Tolstoy managed to capture the very essence of his characters’ lives. However, it is quite lengthy (and the text eye-straining-ly small) and a little bit slow at times. I’d like to read it again at one point in my lifetime when I have a better understanding of European history, but somehow I doubt that I will be able to stomach another book this tedious.
In celebration of finally, finally, finally finishing War and Peace, I baked a Green Tea Cake with Chestnut Whipped Cream for a family dinner. Making your own chestnut puree for the cream is quite tedious (like reading a 964-page book), but so, so worth it.
Click below for the recipe.
Green Tea Cake with Chestnut Whipped Cream
Yield: one 9-inch cake
Adapted from: Food and Wine, May 2008
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons matcha powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons gelatine
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup chestnut puree
For the cake, preheat oven to 350F. Butter three 9-inch round pans, line with parchment, butter, and dust with flour.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric stand-mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and milk in three alternating additions, beating well between additions. Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans.
Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for about 35-45 minutes, until springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool for about forty-five minutes in the pan, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Unfrosted cakes can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
For the chestnut cream, place cream in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on to medium high. Meanwhile, stir the gelatine and water together in a small bowl. Microwave for ten seconds or until dissolved. While the mixer is still running, pour the melted gelatine mixture into the cream and continue to whip until stiff peaks. Add the chestnut puree and fold by hand until combined. Use immediately.
To frost the cake, place one cake layer on a cake board and place a dollop of cream over top. Using an angled spatula, spread the cream into an even layer. Place the second layer of cake on top, top down, and use the rest of the cream to frost the cake. I had some leftover cream, so I put it in a pastry bag with a star tip and piped random rosettes.
*Note: I would definitely recommend using homemade chestnut puree because you can really taste the difference. My mom made the puree. She scored a pound of chestnuts and steamed them for 15 minutes before roasting them at 400F for another 15 minutes. Then she took the chestnuts out of the oven and covered them with a towel for 15 minutes before peeling. Then she cooked the chestnuts over the stove top with enough water to almost cover the chestnuts until they were tender, about 25 minutes, and pureed them.