Bunya nut choclate cake: A super rich, Australian recipe + how to prepare bunya nuts for eating
In step with the recent discussion of indigenous crops, here’s a recipe for a ridiculously rich bunya nut chocolate cake. This recipe is adapted from the chestnut and chocolate truffle cake recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage. But first, some steps for preparing bunya nuts for eating (either as they are, or for use in this recipe).
Preparing bunya nuts
Probably, you’ll receive bunya nuts that look something like brazil nuts while still in their casings, but light in colour and with rounded edges leading to a point at one end. This means they’re still in their shell, which needs to be removed if you want to eat the nut inside. You’ll notice that the shell is very tough. To remove it from the nut, my reading and experience has shown that boiling the nuts in their shells is the way to go.
To do this, place the nuts into a saucepan covered with water and bring it to a boil. Put on a lid and keep boiling for around 30-45 minutes, keeping in mind you’ll want to supervise to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate out and leave the nuts cooking on the bottom.
After around 30-45 minutes have passed, remove the nuts in their shells from the water and allow to cool until you can touch them comfortably. Get a good, sharp knife (and someone with steady hands if you’re not one of those steady handed folk) and start removing the shells by cutting into the pointed end of the nut. As much as you can, try to slice toward the rounded tip so that you are really opening up the shell.
To some degree you’ll be able to peel the shell, though you may also need to persevere with cutting to get through it.
The nuts will be ready to eat or incorporate into a recipe immediately, and I have read that the shells are lovely for going into a fire.
Recipe: Bunya nut chocolate cake
Using this recipe as a template and with some added wattleseed for a bit of extra bite and more indigenous food cred, this is a simple procedure which uses a couple of saucepans, a couple of mixing bowls, and a spring-form pan. It makes for a very rich and moist cake, of which you’ll just want a wee bit (take note of the butter and chocolate quantities below! It’s a good thing bunya nuts generally become available only every few years…). The bunya nuts add lovely texture and, to some extent, balance the truckload of melted chocolate and butter. I would forgo icing, or anything too rich to go with the cake as the cake carries enough flavour and sweetness on its own. In fact I quite like the un-iced roughness of the cake, it seems to suit the Australian ingredients!
Things to go into the cake
- Dark chocolate x 250g
- Butter, unsalted x 250g + extra for greasing pan
- Bunya nuts, boiled and peeled x 250g (shelled weight)
- Milk x 250ml/ 1 cup
- Eggs x 4
- Sugar x 125g (half raw and half rapadura)
- Wattleseed, ground x 1 tbsp (optional)
Things to do to make the cake
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 23cm spring-form cake pan, then line the base with baking paper or parchment (I like to use this paper).
2. Using a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate and butter over a gentle heat.
3. In another saucepan, heat the shelled bunya nuts with the milk until just boiling, then thoroughly mash or process in a food processor. If your nuts are especially tough, you may need to opt for the food processor (as I did). The nuts+ milk should reach a porridgey consistency.
4. Separate the eggs. In a large mixing bowl, mix the four egg yolks with the sugar. Add the chocolate and bunya nut mixes along with the wattleseed if you are using it. Stir thoroughly until consistent and smooth.
5. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer if you have one (or muscles and dedication if you don’t have an electric mixer), whisk the egg whites until stiff.
6. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a metal spoon (so the air is not beaten out of the egg whites). Aim to achieve a thorough mix but take your time to avoid flattening the egg whites.
7. Transfer the mix into the prepared cake tin.
8. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on the cake during cooking. You want it to be firming up around the edges, so that the sides of the cake are pulling away from the tin when it’s coming out of the oven, but you want a healthy wobble in the middle. It should be moist and delicate, but well set in the centre.
9. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for around 5 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the cake to separate the cake from the tin, then remove the spring-form ring.
10. Serve warm immediately with cream if it’s about, or eat cold later on.
If you get the chance to put some bunya nuts into this cake, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. The bunya nuts give a really lovely texture, and what’s not to like about half a kilogram of butter and melted chocolate??