Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire . . .

Nov 17

It was a co-worker’s birthday a few weeks ago, and after some sneaky inquiries I learned she loved chestnuts. Really the only thing I knew of chestnuts was that “chestnuts could be roasted on an open fire“. I also remembered during the holidays that the Asian stores would have carts/vendors selling warm roasted chestnuts. After doing some research, I found out that chestnuts are a common/popular ingredient in Asian bakeries. Usually Asian type of cakes are sponge/chiffon cakes that are not heavy and sweet. So no butter-based cakes or buttercreams, all of which I am much too familiar with when making cakes.

So really I had only one choice . . . and that was to go to the best source for getting chestnuts and a taste of a chestnut cream cake–I went to 99 Ranch.

99 Ranch is a chain of Asian super markets. The one that I went to is in the Pacific East Mall on the border of Richmond and Emeryville. This shopping center should be avoided on the weekends since it is super busy! But of course, I trekked the entire Ai Love Family to this shopping center on a Saturday in search of CHESTNUTS . . . oh, if along the way in this shopping center I were to stumble upon a delectable cake made with chestnuts, then all the better. So I had a plan that would originally place me, tops 5 minutes, in and out of that shopping center with this one mission in mind . . . but of course this didn’t happen. Partly because on my way in I passed the Sheng Kee Bakery and was overstimulated by all those sweets in the shop that included a chestnut cream cake–my 5 minutes turned into 10, and that was only in that darn bakery! But really the main reason was that it was past our lunch time and the Ai Love Family was waiting in the car, hungry, and most definitely roused by the fact that they had to fight for a parking spot. Yes I digress, but I am getting to it–so we enjoyed a yummy hot-pot lunch and finally feeling less of a time crunch, I found CHESTNUTS. 99 Ranch did not have any fresh roasted chestnuts, but I did find a packet of “organic” chestnuts. Desperate, I bought a couple of packets and hoped this would be enough for my attempt at a chestnut type of cake.

My confidence took another hit as I “sampled” from the Sheng Kee Bakery a slice of their Chestnut Cream Cake. It was a white sponge/chiffon type of cake with a whipped chestnut cream.. It was quite refreshing for a cake since it was light and airy, which made me appreciate why my co-worker preferred this type of cake. If you do not have a sweet tooth, then you would love this cake and eat it too!

I had my work cut out for me considering I had to at least bake a decent prototype of what I had at Sheng Kee Bakery. But really did I have to? I believe 25% of baking is what you do when following a recipe step by step, the remaining 75% is your creativity and passion to create an end product that is unforgettable, and most certainly edible enough to document for the next time. I am not saying that I can bake something much better than Sheng Kee Bakery or would even try to, but these bakeries inspire and challenge me to work with ingredients and flavors that I have never used or would imagine to use.

So I decided I would not take on that Chestnut Cream Cake since there was no way I could compete with Sheng Kee Bakery, but wondered how I could use chestnuts in conjunction with other flavors. I may have mentioned this in another post, but I am a strong believer in using what you have on hand. Well, this may not be the case with the chestnuts, but I had chocolate! And all kinds of chocolate, so this was definitely going to be in my cake. Another Asian type of ingredient popped into my head, green tea, which I recently bought for some macarons I made. So the decision was made–a chiffon cake with layers of chocolate and green tea and whipped chestnut cream frosting.

I have never made a chiffon cake before and so I read up and research on the tips and trick to making a great chiffon cake. Most recipes stress to make a light cake you must fold the egg whites in gently. Folding? This is right up my ally given all that folding of meringue and almond flour with my recent macaron obsession. I finally decided on a recipe from the blog Use Real Butter. The recipe was for a Chocolate Matcha Earl Grey Cake. Here are some of the modifications I made to the chiffon cake recipe:

  • I used 1.5 oz of cocoa powder and 1.5 oz of green tea powder
  • I substituted the almond extract with vanilla extract
  • I substituted the almond paste with a paste I made with a package of those chestnuts
  • After mixing the ingredients (except the cocoa powder) and before folding in the whipped egg whites, I poured half of the mixture into another bowl
  • I added cocoa powder to one half and green tea powder to the other half
  • I did not use the Earl Grey simple syrup and instead used a simple syrup with just a tiny bit of kahlua liquor in it to enhance the flavor of both the chocolate and green tea chiffon cakes
  • I had other plans for the frosting so I did not use the matcha swiss meringue buttercream recipe, although swiss meringue is one of my favorite

I was too focused on getting this cake done right that I didn’t take my usual pics to help illustrate the steps I took. However, I did stop to take a quick shot of when I folded the egg whites with the green tea cake batter.

For the frosting, I originally wanted to do a chocolate chestnut whipped cream. But decided against that idea since I was taking this to work with me and I wasn’t sure if even a stabilized whipped cream could last my crazy commute into work. So I switched to something that I experimented with recently.  In my post “A Tale of Three Macarons” I made some blueberry ganache cream cheese filling for some not so blue, but rather seafoam macaron shells.   The shells may not have turned out as I expected, but this new-found ganache cream cheese is yummers!

Follow the recipe found in this post, but make the following substitutions:

  • Substitute the blueberry reduction for some chestnut paste (I made some chestnut paste but placing in the food processor a packet of those chestnuts)
  • I used a combo of milk and semi-sweet chocolate instead of the white chocolate
  • Double or triple the recipe, depending on the size of your cake
  • Since this frosting contains the chestnut paste, it will not be smooth but rather grainy in texture

Once the cakes were out of the oven, I let them cool on a rack.  I then cut each cake in half and brushed on the simple syrup.

I needed to level each layer of cake, and as a result was able to test taste the cakes.  I thought the chocolate one came out great, but the green tea flavored one was a bit strong.  Because of this, I decided to only add a middle layer of the green tea cake along with one chocolate layer below and above.  I frosted the cake with the Chocolate Chestnut Cream Cheese Ganache.  Looking a bit plain, I decided to go with my original plan and whipped up some stabilized whipped cream to pipe some decorations.  This was the first time using a packet of ”magic” (sorry the name of the stabilizer isn’t coming to me at the moment).  You add this packet of magic to heavy whipping cream right before the stiff peak stage.  I was a bit leery on using this, but this stuff is great!  I just have to remember where I bought it from to get more.  I was able to pipe some beautiful shell borders and round decos (my new word for decorations that I can’t seem to explain what they are or perhaps in this late hour just too tired to think of a real word).

So here it is my Chocolate Green Tea Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Chestnut Cream Cheese Gananche.

I remembered to take a quick shot of the inside of the cake after we devoured half of it at work.  My co-worker was impressed, and appreciative since she said it was the first time someone made a cake for her.  And this is really why I enjoy baking . . . to be able to (in my little way) show how much I care through what I love doing the most.

I almost forgot, the green tea flavor mellowed overnight since I baked the cake a day before and actually turned out quite tasty.

Comments: 2

  1. Rebecca November 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm Reply

    That cake looks truely amazing – I am so impressed. A real holiday cake, for certain.

    • ailovebaking November 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm Reply

      Aww thanks! I always feel like I’ve accomplished something when it turns out right. I am still on the fence about chestnuts though. I think I have to try some real roasted chestnuts to really appreciate them!

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