Friday, January 13, 2017

Chestnut Cake with Maple Icing

I’m going to call this my snowstorm cake. Not because it looks like a snowstorm (although a dusting of confectioner’s sugar could take care of that pretty fast) but because I was snowed in all day this past Sunday (17.6 inches!), and I wanted to bake.

I had all the necessities—flour, butter, eggs—but I wanted to experiment with nuts. Except I forgot that my daughter had cleaned out my nut supply over the holidays when she was visiting. Which left one lonely little package of . . . chestnuts?

I have never cooked with chestnuts. I bought the package because I’d never seen it for sale before. Why not give it a shot? I set out to find a recipe for something baked that included chestnuts.

I came up with some odd and interesting ideas, both sweet and savory, but the only one that grabbed my attention was a 1999 recipe from Bon Appetit (I used to love that magazine!) for a cake flavored with maple syrup. Aha! I had plenty of maple syrup (which I bought in Granby, Massachusetts, from the Parker family, whose sugar house I visited because I always wanted to see how maple syrup was made). So I was off to the races.

As you may have noticed, we here at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen seldom leave a recipe alone—we tinker with it, we swap out ingredients, and we have fun. That’s true in this case. The original recipe called for mashing up half the chestnuts and combining them with some of the other ingredients. I tried, really, I did. These chestnuts, soft and lovely though they might be, would not mash. I gave up and just threw the chopped bits in (the other half of them get scattered on top but then disappear into the batter). It all came out fine.

And wait until you get to the icing part—it’s wicked! And easy.

Chestnut Cake with Maple Glaze

For the Cake:

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-3/4 cups peeled roasted chestnuts (12 oz) or jarred chestnuts (8 oz)
3/4 cup plus 1 Tblsp light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (real) maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8x8x2 baking pan. [Confession: I don’t have one, so I used a 9" springform pan, which is roughly the same volume. It worked fine.)

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Coarsely chop the chestnuts. Split into two equal parts.

The chestnuts (they are peeled)
A single chestnut
The chestnuts, chopped

Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer, or mix with hand-held mixer. Beat until well-blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each.

Beat in flour mixture. Stir in half the chopped chestnuts.

Spread the batter in the pan. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chopped chestnuts, and the extra Tblsp of brown sugar.

Ready for the oven

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack.


For the Icing:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 Tblsp maple syrup

In a small bowl, blend the powdered sugar, melted butter and maple syrup and beat until there are no lumps and the icing forms thick ribbons.

Pour over the cooled cake.

Let stand until icing is set (about 20 minutes).

My verdict? The chestnuts have a mild pleasant flavor and add an interesting chewy texture to the cake. I would make this one again, if I ever find a package (or a jar or can?) of chestnuts again. The icing I would eat with a spoon any time!

In case you haven't heard, I'll be starting a new Victorian Village series--the first book will come out in 2018. It's so new, there are no pretty pictures yet! It's about a magnificent mansion that hasn't been touched for a century, in a small town that's desperate for a new venture to bring in tourist dollars and keep the town alive--and the woman who comes up with an idea to save the town.

But before that, Cruel Winter! Coming March 14th.

Yes, it does snow in Ireland! Spoiler alert: the snow melts.

Find it for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I have never seen chestnuts in anything but the glass jar. Interesting. Looking forward to reading Cruel Winter.

  2. I had no idea what to expect. My grandmother was fond of "marrons glacees" which were chestnuts preserved in sugar syrup, and they came in a jar or can, but I thought they were kind of icky. Live and learn!

    1. I remember those too!! And never cared for them either!! The icing sounds amazing, I will try this on an apple cake soon!!
      Love, Your Sister

  3. We roasted chestnuts every Christmas when my grandmother was alive. I could go for a piece of this cake right now! I loved Bon Appetit, too, but had to stop subscribing because I had stacks and stacks of them. Same with Cooking Light.

    1. I'd almost forgotten, but when I worked in Philadelphia (and walked from the train station to my building) during the winter street vendors would set up small stands and roast chestnuts there, selling them by the bag. I never had the courage to try them, but they smelled lovely.

  4. Sheila, that bag of Geffen chestnuts is not new to me. The supermarket I shop at has them front and center on a display as you walk in the door. Of course there's the fact that this is a KOSHER Supermarket. LOL I'll have to try the recipe (which means sending it to my youngest daughter). I'm looking forward to reading that new series when it finally hits the shelves.

    1. I'm going to keep an eye out for them again. Some of the savory recipes sounded interesting too.

  5. My father liked to roast chestnut in a cast iron pan (I think). He cut an X in the top of each to keep them from popping, I think. They were tasty.
    The street vendors made the air smell wonderful. There was a possibility of the occasional bad one.

  6. Last time I was in Ireland it snowed. And melted. This cake looks delicious. The problem is maple syrup. I never could take much of that but I love maple sugar candy. Go figure.

    Pat D

  7. Great tasty fun and unusual, Sheila! You never let us down. Hugs. MJ

  8. Replies
    1. It's a keeper! Of course, the flavor depends on your syrup.

  9. sounds good! i'd join you in eating that icing!