To me, the perfect brunch dessert is one that is not too sweet, not too rich, and especially not too chocolaty — this chestnut cake fits the bill! Served with warm pan-roasted Bartlett pears and a little chestnut honey syrup, it’s absolutely enchanting and even a little addictive.
The cake should be prepared one day ahead, as its texture will improve with a little rest. All that remains to be done before serving is to pan-roast the pears and make the syrup, which only takes a few moments.
*Note: Chestnut honey is a specialty of Italy and Southern France. It can be found in gourmet food stores, or online.
Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the pear slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes until golden. Reduce the heat to medium, sprinkle the sugar on the pear slices and flip them, being careful not to break them. Continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove the pear slices from pan and set aside.
Place the same pan used to sauté the pear slices over medium heat. Add the honey and lemon juice and turn off the heat. Stir until the honey becomes liquid in consistency, about 5 seconds, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the chestnut flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place the eggs in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip at high speed for 4-5 minutes, until soft peaks form and the mixture is a pale cream color.
Add the sugar gradually, until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Continue whipping at high speed for another 30 seconds.
With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, fold the chestnut flour mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Then fold in the butter. Do not overmix or the cake will not rise.
Grease a 9-inch-round spring-form cake pan with butter and dust with flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for to 25-30 minutes until just golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the mold to room temperature before serving.
To serve, place a slice of cake in the center of a dessert plate. Place a few warm pear slices next to it. Drizzle with the chestnut honey syrup. Garnish with an herb sprig, dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.