Happy Turkey Day (sans turkey)

Last year my parents happened to be visiting us in Zürich from New York during Thanksgiving.  “How perfect,” we all said.  We would recreate the holiday meal chez nous and uphold our family traditions – play the same music we play every year while we cook (Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and very loud), decorate the table together, put my mother in charge of her famous noodle pudding, and bake a turkey with all the trimmings.  Not taking any risks, my mom packed her suitcase in New York with Pennsylvania Dutch extra wide egg noodles (the only ones she has ever used in her highly-prized recipe), Thanksgiving themed napkins and table decorations, real American brown sugar, even her favorite canned pineapple to assure authenticity.  Sounds like the plans were laid to go on without a hitch…

Molten Chestnut CakeMolten Chestnut Cake

Zoom in on the half empty bag of egg noodles, that a certain someone’s French husband happened to have for lunch the day before Thanksgiving.  His defense – “I made myself lunch, and decided to have pasta.”  Can’t argue with that.  Next challenge – actually finding a turkey!  After visiting all of my favorite butchers in town to no avail, we ended up at Jelmoli’s fancy shmancy food hall downstairs.  They were luckily importing turkeys from France, parfait.  We’ll take one, the biggest you’ve got.  Back at my apartment for a real European moment – the thing wouldn’t fit in the oven.

Fast forward to full bellies, smiles all around, and even leftovers the next day- key to a traditional Thanksgiving, of course.  It was a very memorable holiday, and it turned out to be rather delicious, if a bit more creative than anticipated.  This year, I decided to approach Thanksgiving with a less ambitiously authentic attitude, especially for dessert (surprise surprise).  Dinner would be classic and simple, most importantly with a much smaller bird.  I decided on quail, stuffed with chestnuts and prunes, a dish my French mother-in-law serves around Christmas time.  I just went to the market and bought my weight in Brussels Sprouts, colorful baby organic potatoes, enormous sweet onions, apples, pears and chestnuts.  The trimmings are somewhere in there.  For the sweet finale, I’ve been racking my brain for the perfect recipe that would simply scream Thanksgiving.  Do I take the pumpkin route, even though my family was never really one for pumpkin pie?  I thought about pumpkin cookie sandwiches, pumpkin chocolate chip cake, pumpkin ice cream, even a pumpkin Tarte Tatin.  Then I decided to create a Swiss Thanksgiving dessert, using an ingredient that is even more omnipresent here than pumpkin, totally representative of the season too.  Chestnuts.  They were already making an appearance on the menu, why not give them double time?

Molten Chestnut CakeMolten Chestnut CakeMolten Chestnut CakeMolten Chestnut Cake

This sweet brainstorming session ended with an irresistible molten chestnut cake – a perfect Thanksgiving dessert for me the American… using French crème de marrons for my husband the Français… to serve at our home in Switzerland.  Doesn’t get more authentic than that.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Molten Chestnut CakeMolten Chestnut Cake

Molten Chestnut Cake
makes 4 individual cakes

1/2 cup (150 grams) crème de marrons vanillé (vanilla flavored chestnut cream)
scant 1/2 cup (100 grams) butter, very soft
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1/8 cup (30 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) flour, sifted
scant teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder

Slightly warm the chestnut cream. Blend with the butter in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the egg yolks and the sugar. Beat for 10 full minutes. The mixture will become very light and have the texture of a silky mousse. Sprinkle the baking powder and sifted flour over the batter, delicately incorporating both with the use of a large spatula.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Butter and flour 4 ramekins or other individual baking dishes. Use your finger to leave a clean rim at the top (see photo above). Fill 3/4 up to the top with chestnut cream batter and put in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Depending on your oven, and how “molten” you want the cakes to be, bake for 13-16 minutes. Serve immediately. You can either leave them in the ramekins, sprinkled with powdered sugar on top, or plate them alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

21 Responses to “Happy Turkey Day (sans turkey)”

  1. VeggieGirl says:

    Love the memories/story and the cake! 🙂

  2. Mom says:

    Oh my, boy do I remember the dinner last year at Thanksgiving time in Zurich. We certainly had lots of laughs….and it was rather good, I might say! So this year you will roast a quail and have a wonderful dinner just the two of you! Your dessert sounds amazing. I would love to taste it. The photographs really do make it just look delicious! To all your readers and especially to you both a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. Rosa says:

    Those cakes look lovely! I love anything made with chestnuts…

    Happy Thanksgiving!



  4. Amanda says:

    Haha, Kerrin! We are going on year 2 without a turkey. We’ve stuck with traditional trimmings, but the meat is always up in the air. This year we will have Rollschinkli and I think, emphasis on think, Cornish game hens. My sister and her boyfriend are in town and neither are crazy about turkey, thank god, so we’re in the clear. (Last year we had a bunch of Germans over and they were a bit disappointed not to get a bona fide American Thanksgiving dinner…)

    We don’t have a proper pie tin (we tried apple pie in a Springform but the juice leaked! and our other tins are too shallow – have you seen any genuine pie tins around?), so Isaiah’s making his mom’s berry cobbler for dessert. Your chestnut cake looks yummy and festive!!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your French-noodle-eating-man!


  5. Romy says:

    Those cakes look fabulous, even to someone who is a bad Swiss and doesn’t love her chestnuts. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Olivier, and have a great time in London this weekend!

  6. Kerrin says:

    Thanks VeggieGirl !

    Mom, next year – how about a trade, one noodle pudding for one chestnut cake ? 🙂

    Rosa, thanks ! I wasn’t always a huge fan of chestnuts, but I have really come to love them, in every shape and form too !

    Amanda, turkey shmurkey – your menu sounds fantastic ! And such fun that you have family in town. Not surprised that the Americans don’t mind taking a break from the big bird, whereas I can understand your German friends being curious to make the discovery last year.

    As for a proper pie tin, I wouldn’t think you’d have too much trouble finding one. The Coop has a pretty exhaustive selection of baking equipment, no? I sometimes like to explore the little hardware stores in town, the shelves overflowing with pans and tools and things. If not, you know where I live – what shape do you want ? 🙂 But meanwhile, that berry cobbler sure sounds good too ! Happy “turkey” to you and the fam ! I’ll pass your wishes on to the French-noodle-eating-man, haha !

    Romy, I guess there won’t be any chestnuts on your Thanksgiving menu tomorrow night ! Can’t wait to hear what there will be though. I still think you might like this cake, worth saving in the baking files (bet they’re quite full !). Thanks for your holiday wishes – I only wish I had time to do your chocolate tour of London this weekend. Next time…

  7. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mr MyKugelhopf. I am so not surprised the turkey wouldn’t fit. I think we have the same size ovens as standard here in Australia as in Europe. The ones I had when I lived in America were HUGE!

    What a delightful sounding dish that you have prepared. I am very intrigued by the chestnut. Not something that I’ve eaten much of in the past. I do have my hands on a can of some peeled chestnuts imported from France. Any ideas?

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  9. Wendy says:

    I love your T-day story! Brings back many memories! My first turkey abroad did not fit in the oven as well (Ireland)! And, I had to keep it at a kind neighbors before cooking because my refridgerator was tiny!!

    I “found” your blog when a dear friend was leaving me in Singapore for a new adventure in Zurich! I will be visiting in Jan 2010 and cannot wait to check out some of the special food/places that you write so well about!!

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  10. Dad says:

    If I had a chestnut for every time I told that noodle pudding story, you’d be making chestnut recipes for a year 🙂 But the dinner was amazing, and more important, our family didn’t miss out on the traditional celebration. Ya can’t beat spending the holidays with your family. And poor Kerrin’s mom and I had to spend it in Switzerland. Ah, life is tough sometimes. A very happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all.

  11. katy says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Kerrin! The molten cakes look divine.

  12. Scribetrotter says:

    I love chestnuts… anything marrons!

    Geneva is a haven for turkeys – but it has a large American population so they magically appear this time of year.

    But next door in France, no sign of gobble. Seems they must be exporting them all to Zurich…

    I did break into loud laughter at the vision of big bird being pushed into tiny oven… having been there myself, I have treated my kitchen to a Smeg double-size oven – there isn’t much you can’t cook in there!

  13. Kerrin says:

    Julia, thanks for the holiday wishes – I’ll share them with MrKugelhopf ! 🙂 So, you’ve got French peeled chestnuts over there and you don’t know what to do with them? Well you’re in luck. Totally coincidentally, today’s Elle à Table recipe newsletter was all about… MARRONS ! Check it out and let me know what catches your eye:

    Wendy, that is too funny! Thanks for sharing your turkey story in Ireland ! An oven AND refrigerator that were too small. Oops! 🙂 You’re coming to Zurich in January? How exciting! I can’t wait to hear about all of your Swiss finds then. Hope you’ll enjoy some of the sweet places I wrote about here for sure… Thanks for the kind words.

    Dad, that noodle pudding/pasta moment was so classic, can’t deny that. Poor Olivier, so clueless… and hungry ! haha!

    katy, thanks ! Happy Thanksgiving right back at ya !

    Scribetrotter, wow, didn’t know that about Geneva. Guess that’s where we’ll be spending Turkey Day 2010 ! 🙂 And if we can’t find an oven big enough — you might just hear a knock at your door ! haha ! Oh and definitely no turkeys left in France – all the Americans living in Zurich are eating them !

  14. tasteofbeirut says:

    What a fabulous idea! Sort of like having a creme de marrons intensified. I would add plenty of creme chantilly and call it a day.

  15. Happy Turkey Day » Current News Trends says:

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  16. jkiel says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! The recipe sounds great, I’ll have to see if I can find the chestnut creme around here…
    Thanks too, for your great blog!

  17. Jack says:

    fantastic…the little cakes look absolutely divine – well done (I’m sure you enjoyed the practice rounds as well…)!

  18. Adriana says:

    that looks incredible! I think I need some sweets now! 😉

  19. Chris Cook says:

    It looks delicious and a great story!! But….what in the world is noodle pudding? Keep up the great work Kerrin!

  20. Kerrin says:

    tasteofbeirut, oooh yes! Creme chantilly is a fabulous idea. Why didn’t I think of that?! 🙂

    jkiel, thanks so much. Hope you enjoyed the holiday too! So, did you find the chestnut cream yet? Good luck! Let me know…

    Jack, oh absolutely, my baking practice rounds were such fun. Not perfect – and certainly not always attractive, but quite tasty each time!

    Adriana, hope you satisfied your sweet tooth!

    Chris, glad you enjoyed, and thanks so much for checking in! As for noodle pudding, good question! Also called kugel, it’s a traditional Jewish dish – a sweet/savory baked pudding/casserole. My mom makes her with egg noodles, eggs, sugar, butter and pineapple. She sprinkles it with cinnamon and bakes it until it gets real crispy on top, divine!

  21. Uncle Beefy says:

    Y’know, Kerrin… the package with the Chestnut Cakes… you know, the one’s you “sent to me” still haven’t arrived? Isn’t that weird? It’s like they’re lost or something? Funny, huh? 😉 Those sound so, so tasty!

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