P&Q: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

bake it up!

53 thoughts on “P&Q: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

  1. This cake is expensive to make, but it is delicious. If you can’t get a hold of chestnuts, I think that any other nuts would be just as good. (I used hazelnut spread with the tinned chestnuts, and it was good.)

  2. Can you use the ones that fall off the trees? I think that’s the closest I’ll get to getting any in my town. :) Thanks for the “nutty” advice Cakelaw!

  3. Mike, you have chestnuts in your town? Wow, I thought they were pretty much extinct in North America.

    Maybe you have horse chestnuts?

    I went to several stores and found canned or jarred chestnuts but no sweetened chestnut spread. Do you think I could make my own? Grind up some of the canned chestnuts with sugar in the food processor?

    • Barbara, just goes to show you how much I know about chestnuts! I’ll try the stores again this year, but I know they’ll lead me to water chestnuts. Sounds like a delicious cake though…

      • The chestnuts are mostly extinct, but coming back. Many farmers are making heroic efforts to revive the American chestnut or grow the Chinese version, or crosses. They’re just starting to re-appear at farmers’ markets. Any in supermarkets are probably from China or Italy though.

      • I tried an Asian market. When I asked them for the kind of chestnuts that grew on trees, NOT water chestnuts, they did know what I was talking about. But they didn’t have any. Then I went to Trader Joe’s. They said they would be getting some closer to Christmas. Then I went to Whole Foods and found the jarred chestnuts (a couple of brands, both from France) and unsweetened chestnut puree.

  4. Anybody have trouble with the caramel part of the ganache? Mine totally crystallized even though I brushed the sides of the pan with water as instructed.

    So I resorted to my favorite appliance and it came out perfectly. Post a comment on my blog (any post) or email me if you want detailed instructions.

    p.s. This method is the ONLY way I seem to be able to make candy successfully.

    • Hi Romaine! I find that the other secret to caramel (besides brushing down the sides of the pan with water once the syrup comes to a boil) is to NEVER stir it once it begins to boil. Just let it simmer, and if it starts to color unevenly, swirl the pan very gently. Also, use a pan that conducts heat fairly evenly, like one with a thick bottom or a copper coating.

      When you pour in the cream, some of the caramel will solidify. It helps to pre-heat the cream (I used the microwave), but even so, I got quite a bit of solid caramel on the bottom of the pan. Just keep heating it, stirring occasionally, and once the cream and caramel get hot enough again, it will dissolve.

      I didn’t use the cinnamon stick. I added ground cinnamon after the chocolate/caramel/cream mixture had cooled a bit.

      • Good caramel advise Barbara. I will infuse the cinnamon stick in the cream rather than cooking it with the sugar. A dollop of corn syrup or a squeeze of lemon juice can help to prevent crystallization. I would add either after the sugar has caramelized just before adding the cream.

    • Thanks! I already did a Google search and it led me to Amazon.com as well. Not going to order, though. After looking at the ingredient lists and some other posts, it sounds like they make the spread with chestnuts simmered in sugar syrup with vanilla. I’ll try that with some of the extra jarred chestnuts.

  5. Or does anyone have any other suggestions? I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to find it in my area and the option at amazon. com:

    http://www.amazon.com/Provinces-de-France-Chestnut-Spread/dp/B0001217AY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=gourmet-food&qid=1256825111&sr=1-1

    Looks good, but expensive when you include the shipping. I just can’t justify spending so much on one cake, yet I’m anxious to try it. If anyone finds the chestnut spread at a nationwide store (I’m wondering about big lots, tj maxx, marshalls) let me know. If I have time to shop I’ll look at those stores, too, and report back.

    Otherwise, if chestnut doesn’t work out, what would anyone suggest to sub in for the chestnut spread?

  6. Having made this cake and used the chestnut spread as prescribed(Whole Foods), I’m thinking a nut honey spread might also work. Nutella probably has more fat than the chestnut spread which seemed to be mostly sugar. Just a thought…

    By the way, it was absolutely delicious and beautiful. I’m putting the recipe in my file to make the next time the president of the United States, Oprah, or Dorie herself drops in for dinner.

  7. Romaine,
    Thanks for the thoughts on Nutella. I’m looking online for another source of the spread. One site, The Frenchy Bee, seems pretty reasonable. They have a 17.5 ounce can for $7.50 with $5 shipping. Not too bad.

    Should the whole chestnuts be roasted or raw? I just read the recipe last night but can’t remember if it specifies!
    Jennifer

  8. The ingredient lists I saw on-line for the spread listed sugar, chestnuts, water, vanilla. Nutella has more fat — maybe you could reduce the fat in the cake recipe a little to compensate? And for using other nut butters — maybe use a little less nut butter and add a little more sugar, unless your nut butter already has sugar added. Good luck, I look forward to seeing all these variations!

  9. I’m in Stage 1 of making this cake (chestnut spread & ganache day) And I couldn’t find the chestnut spread but I did find jarred, peeled chestnuts. So I used one 7.4oz jar of those + 2 tsp. vanilla + 3 tbsp. sugar + 1 tbsp. heavy cream to make a spread. It tastes pretty good. However the ganache is to.die.for. Wow. I’ll make the cake tomorrow, if I don’t eat all the ganache first.

  10. Let’s see, the whole recipe calls for a 9×9 square pan which has a surface area of 81 square inches. So if you want your half-recipe to be about the same height as the original, you want a pan with a surface area of 40.5 inches. An 8×4 pan is only 32 inches — you’ll get a thicker cake. A 9×5 pan is 45 inches – thinner cake. Do you have one that is sort of in-between? That should work best.

    I have a 6×6 inch square pan and am planning to use it for a half recipe.

      • Same here–mine took an extra 15 minutes, and though it didn’t overflow, it definitely baked up right to the edge. I was pretty nervous once the batter was all in, but it turned out fine. Mine did sink in the middle, though, probably from checking on it at the specified 48 minutes.

  11. I’m new here, and wow, what a week to start! I’m just waiting for the glaze to thicken enough to stay on the cake. I’m not confident in that. I used Nutella in mine, with chopped hazelnuts in the filling. The center fell, but that might be because I baked it in two one-inch tall 9-inch pans and forgot to adjust the time. I also opened the oven once. It’s been a while since I’ve made a true from-scratch cake-oops!

  12. I decided to try a caramel glaze on my whole chestnuts and chestnut pieces. It wasn’t a success. The jarred chestnuts are so moist! Even after rinsing, patting dry several times with paper towels, and letting them sit on the counter for a while. When I poured the caramel over them, everything looked fine. But when they cooled and I went to break it up, the caramel didn’t stick to the chestnuts because they were too moist.

    Oh well, I will still be able to use both the chestnuts and the caramel bits!

    BTW — while they were sitting on the silicone sheet waiting for the caramel, my husband came by and said “Those are weird. They look like brains.” Gee, thanks for the image, dear! And now I’ve shared it with all of you … ;)

  13. I used Nutella instead of chestnut spread, decreasing the butter in the cake by 2 tablespoons. It seemed to work okay. Overall, the dessert was really good, but it did take me forever to make everything and put it together.

  14. Did anyone else have trouble with the glaze getting thick enough? I put mine in the fridge after about 4 hours, and while it did get thicker, most of it ran off the cake and plate even after about 7 hours of sitting.

    I’m at high altitude (~5300 feet) but I don’t usually have problems baking as long as I use high altitude flour.

    Hence, I probably won’t be posting photos!

    • I did. Mine stayed just this side of too thin for hours, and then it suddenly went from that to straight up Buttercream Consistency within seconds. I ended up smearing it on with a spatula.

  15. Pingback: TWD rewind: Cottage Cheese Pufflets « The Whimsical Cupcake

  16. Just FYI all…due to work circumstances, I won’t be posting the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake post until fairly late this evening–apologies to those of you who like to link, I swear the link will be up by midnight.

  17. Has anyone found the edible gold stuff? Can’t think what it’s called….. I’m wondering if I’ll have to order it online or if it’s available at “regular” stores, like maybe Michael’s or Jeffrey Allens?

    • If you have a cake/candy supply store nearby, ask for an item called “luster dust”. It’s much better than the Wilton stuff at Michaels’. You can also order it online. A little tub probably costs about $3-$4 dollars.

  18. I ordered jarred roasted chestnuts and the spread online, planning on making the cake for Thanksgiving. Then I opened the jar of chestnuts, out of curiousity, to taste one yesterday and realized the jar says “use within five days of opening.” CRAP. Especially since 2 of those five days I’m going to be out of town, the third day I have volunteer work to do and a test to take. Now I’m not sure what to do.

    Oh, and I didn’t actually like the taste of the chestnuts, either. They are a lot sweeter than I had imagined.

    • Jennifer, I think your best bet would be to freeze your newly opened chestnuts. They’ll keep that way until you’re ready for them, and should thaw quickly.

  19. I think I’m going to have to skip this one! It’s too bad because there’s a store nearby that has all the necessary stuff but I left it to the last week and I think my family is expecting more for Thanksgiving than chestnut cake. They’re so demanding, lol.

    Love seeing and reading about everyone else’s and definitely keeping this one in mind for another occasion, maybe next month.

  20. I love this message board! I just put my cake in the oven and now won’t panic if it takes an extra 15 minutes or so. Though I’m using a 9″ round pan, so we’ll see.
    I skipped the chestnuts and made a walnut puree. I’m excited to taste it.

  21. I’m having no luck finding any chestnut spread or jarred chestnuts. Has anyone in Southern CA (Orange County) had any luck and if so, where? Too late for me to order online…

  22. I’m in the middle of this recipe, and thought I’d share a few observations:

    Be sure that your 9″ pan is at least 2″ deep, because there is a lot of cake batter, and it rises. Mine is 2.5″ and the cake almost comes to the top.

    As everyone else has found, the cake takes a lot longer in the oven than the recipe specifies. Testing with a knife was more accurate for me than a “broom straw” cake tester.

    The chestnut spread is thicker than Nutella, but at the same time not as dense – kind of like the texture of a mashed sweet potato. The sweetness level is about the same as Nutella. There’s only a cup in the batter, so I’m sure anything like Nutella or peanut butter would work just fine. The best substitute might be almond paste, thinned a little bit.

    The cake smelled delicious in the oven! Assembly tomorrow, serving on Thursday evening.

  23. Soooooooo glad I found this post!!!! I had an old copy of Bon Appetite with a full-page picture of this cake, so I immediately told myself I would make this cake for my fiance’s bday, this December.

    After reading the ingredients list, I was already concerned about the gold dust and the chestnut puree. Our local Asian grocery stores do carry roasted chestnut but none of my local store carries chestnut puree. However, I read on this post that someone did find it in Whole Foods so I might have to try that, again! Then I found a few recipes online that instruct for making the chestnut puree at home, so I might try that as well.

    From epicurious site, most reviewers found this cake was too expensive to make yet yielded just an ok result… I think I will find that out for myself – I mainly want to learn and to have fun with this cake….

    Another review from the site recommended to skip the water and sugar when making the caramel ganache…..does anyone have any input on this? He/ she also used the Chestnut Whipped Cream recipe from the Cake Bible to make the spread for the layers instead of the syrup. I also have a feeling that this cake would be quite sweet, which I really don’t like that much when it comes to a cake that is pilled with so much chocolate!

    I currently have an 8 x 8 x 2.75 inches square pan, would I be able to bake this cake with this pan? If so, should I lower the baking temperature and do a longer baking time? IF so, can anyone tell me what it would be?

    Thanks for your time!!!

    • It turns out that my pan (which was labeled 9″ x 9″) was exactly the same size as yours. It will rise nearly to the top, but will be fine. It will also take a lot longer to bake, just keep testing it. My pan was dark, so I lowered it 25 degrees.

      I made the recipe as written, and the cake wasn’t overly sweet. The syrup ends up being very subtle; it’s really the ganache that is the main filling between layers as well as being under the glaze on the outside. If you made a different filling, you might consider cutting the amount of ganache or reserving it for another use (truffles??). The sugar and water lends a wonderful caramel flavor to the ganache, but is definitely another step that takes time.

      This is a great tasting layer-cake, imo, even if a bit of a production to make/put together.

  24. Nancy – so I did make this cake last week and I think it turned out ok.

    I did the chestnut mascarpone filling (went to a local bookstore and did a reading, then decided I wanted to see if this filling would work for Dorie’s cake) and it was nice, but not great, but that was my fault though! I did the caramel ganache without adding the butter just because I think it is way too rich for me. I have to say this is an expensive cake to put together but I did learn a few things and I’m glad I at least give it a try! Everyone who had a slice of this cake did enjoy it, so that at least made me feel happy and relieved at the same time!

    Thanks for much for your inputs/ suggestions!

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