This time of year has me thinking of chestnuts more than ever. Fresh chestnuts as well as jarred and vacuum-packed versions pop up at supermarkets and specialty stores, conjuring up images of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and special chestnut desserts for the holidays.
Chestnuts are one of my favorite things. My love for them is pretty well documented here (type in "chestnuts" in the search bar) and I'd like to add another chestnut dessert to the roster today. This time, I'm exploring a rendition of the classic chestnut sponge cake you'd find at a Chinese bakery.
To give you an idea of what this Chinese bakery style chestnut cake typically looks like, here's an example of a past store-bought birthday cake:
Making the homemade version
The cake layers
For my homemade chestnut cake journey, I used these two blog posts: Chinese Chestnut Cake with the corresponding Chiffon Cake Base recipe from a blog called, Mrs. Ip's Kitchen. I tried to understand the recipes as much as possible and to simplify the steps where I could.
Chiffon cake is one of my favorite cakes and this is the first time I've baked it in a cake pan as opposed to a tube pan. And you really do turn the cake pans upside down to cool, and it works.
The chestnut filling
The headliner for this cake is the chestnut filling! I've made a similar recipe for mont blanc tartlets but I really thought this recipe made a spot on filling that was just sweet enough.
Putting the cake together
I made lightly sweetened whipped cream using 1 cup of heavy cream. I found this is enough for the cake but I was a little stingy in the application and I regret that. Oftentimes when I'm eating the bakery-bought version, I find it has a little too much whipped cream for my taste and I thought I could make it more to my own liking at home. Surprise to me, I realized I needed a bit more whipped cream on my cake to add that extra bit of moisture and creaminess.
When I take a bite out of this cake, I thought it tastes like birthdays, which certainly made me smile...and eat more cake!
Chinese Bakery Style Chestnut Cake
Adapted from Mrs. Ip's Kitchen (with chiffon cake layer recipe here)
- For an two-layer 8" round cake -
For chiffon cake layers:
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
50 g caster/superfine sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
75 g caster/superfine sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
75 ml warm canola or vegetable oil
110 ml warm water
150 g all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
* I used Gold Medal brand all-purpose flour. Next time, I would try using cake flour for a lighter result
13 oz. (368g) vacuum-packed chestnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar (could also use caster/superfine sugar)
1/2 cup water (use water used in cooking chestnuts)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
For whipped cream frosting:
1 cup (8 oz.) cold heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make cake layers: Prep two 8 inch round cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper (do not grease). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, start whipping the egg whites. When large bubbles form, add cream of tartar and whip until egg whites turn white in color. Gradually add the 50g of caster sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, until egg whites are stiff.
Place egg yolks, salt, 75g caster sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Gradually whisk in the warm oil, then the warm water. Sift the flour and baking powder together over the egg yolk mixture and gently fold in and combine using a rubber spatula. Fold in the whipped egg whites, half at a time. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back when gently touched and a cake tester comes out clean. Invert the cake pans onto a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.
Make chestnut filling: Place chestnuts in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the chestnuts. Bring to a boil, then lower the flame, and let cook for a few minutes (you are essentially just warming up the cooked chestnuts and softening them a bit more). Remove chestnuts with a slotted spoon and place into a food processor.
Remove 1/2 cup of the still-warm chestnut cooking water and place into a measuring cup. Stir in the sugar to make a simple syrup. Add the simple syrup, melted butter, and milk into the food processor with the chestnuts and blend until a smooth paste forms (add a bit more milk, if necessary). Scrape the sides of the bowl, as needed, to make sure the paste is well mixed. Scrape the chestnut paste into a bowl and let cool.
Whip cream: Start whipping heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract and whip until it just reaches stiff peaks.
Finish the cake: Run a knife around the sides of the cooled cakes, then turn cakes out of the pans, removing the parchment paper. Place one layer of the cake on to a cake stand or plate (I placed it bottom side up). Spread a relatively thin layer of whipped cream on the cake layer. Place approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the chestnut paste filling into a large piping or sandwich bag, snipping a fairly large opening at the corner. Pipe thick rounds of the filling over the whipped cream to cover the cake. Using a small offset spatula, gently smooth out the chestnut filling evenly.
Spread another thin layer of whipped cream over the second cake layer. Invert this (whipped cream side down) onto the chestnut filling. Use the remaining whipped cream to cover the top and sides of the cake.
Use remaining chestnut filling to pipe a border around the cake. Place the filling inside a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (in this post, I used a 1M tip) and pipe, as desired.
Store cake in the refrigerator. Slice and serve when ready.