A splendid way to take advantage of the seasonal bounty of chestnuts
I love chestnuts, and it is now chestnut season. For years, I’ve been wondering how best to impart their mildly sweet, gentle earthy flavour, and found my way to a breakfast cake that does very nicely. I have prepared the cake two ways, and both result in divine cakes—the first has a slightly softer crumb and more chestnut flavour, while the second one is a more generally appealing cake, though the chestnut flavour is less evident. Both are a joy.
I used 7” bundt pans for these cakes, which were exactly the right dimensions. All ingredients were at room temperature. I prepared the chestnut puree together as 250 g of cooked chestnuts and one cup of milk, and then divided them when done. Before beginning, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Generously butter and flour the pans.
Although you could serve this cream or even honey, it really needs nothing. It is a delight with a cup of coffee or morning tea.
Pure Chestnut Cake
- 1 cup of cake flour
- ½ cup of chestnut flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 sachet of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of cassonade sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- ½ of the chestnut puree (made with 1 cup of milk and 250 g of cooked chestnuts)
Cook the chestnuts in the milk over low heat for about 15 minutes, until they are nice and soft. Set aside to cool down a bit.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla. Mix together the flours and baking powder, sifting (particularly important as chestnut flour can often have debris left from the shelling process). Add a third of the flour mix to the butter-sugar and mix just enough to incorporate. Add an egg, mix enough to incorporate. Repeat with flour. Repeat with egg. Finish with flour, taking care to mix only as much as necessary to just blend.
If the batter is very thick, then you can add 1-2 tbsps of milk to get the desired cake batter consistency (if you do not, the cake will likely crack in the making).
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, and check to see if a cake stick will come clean when inserted into the thickest part of the cake. Set on a cake rack to cool, and after 10 minutes, flip and unmould. Once cool, transfer to a plate for serving.
Lemon Zest Variation
For this version of the cake, some small changes were made, which served to lighten the colour of the cake, give a slightly less pillowy texture, and brighten it up a bit. It was also very good.
Below is how the ingredients have changed.
- 1 ½ cups cake flour and no chestnut flour
- Add 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Add the grated zest of 1/3 a lemon
- All other ingredients the same
Proceed as the for the first cake.
I’d love to know your thoughts if you make them. And if you do, it is dead easy to prepare them both at the same time. Simply divine.