January 16, 2023

Chestnut Birthday Cake 栗子蛋糕

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This is the Chinese cake du jour for birthdays!  At least it sure seems to be as almost every Chinese person I've asked has preferred this cake over all others as their birthday cake.  And it's a delight really, this cake, whipped cream frosting layered with the creamy, light, nutty, and irrepressibly delightful flavors of chestnut.  

My hubby has loved this cake since his childhood when a chestnut cake was the only slice of cake he got the whole year.  Poor thing.  Not nearly enough cake.  So every year, for his birthday, I make him a chestnut cake.  😋

Our cake has chestnut in the cake (a revelation!), white chocolate marscarpone frosting and freshly homemade chestnut purée piped on top in a golden, gorgeous, chestnut-y pile.  Lightly sweet, creamy, and packed with delicate nutty flavor, it's chestnuts all the way, baby!

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In the past I have usually baked a white cake to pair with the chestnut purée.  However recently I discovered a fabulous traditional french recipe for chestnut cake called 'gâteau ardéchois.  I had to try it.  It's basically a normal cake except for the chestnut puree creamed in with the butter.  Wow, the added chestnut purée makes for a moist and light cake!

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There's the usual cake procedure, mixing the wet separate from the dry, then just combining them for a light and airy crumb.  If you want even lighter, which I did, separate the egg yolk from the white.  Beat the egg white until stiff then fold in last.

I planned for a four layer cake, so used two 8" round cake pans to bake.  Don't forget to butter and flour the pans or you'll have a stuck in the pan cake to decorate!

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Your two cakes are out of the oven and completely cooled.  It's time to slice!  I have a very handy wire cake slicer which I LOVE but a sharp knife and steady hand will work just fine as well.  Slice off the top domes of the cakes.  Then slice each cake into two equal layers.  

Here's a cool cake trick for you.  Save a bottom layer for the top.  Just turn over that bottom layer and let that be your very top layer of the cake.  See in the photo above?  The bottom of the cake forms a perfect sharp edged shape which looks great as the top of your layer cake.

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But let's back up first.  For this cake I usually get cans of chestnut puree, also known as creme de marrons, from the store and use that for frosting my chestnut cakes.  OMG...that stuff is amazingly yummy!

However, and of course, this was the year the store stopped carrying it and I was stuck with no chestnut puree!  I decided to make homemade chestnut puree and was most pleased at how easy and how deliciously like store bought it came out.  Saved a bundle of money too. 😝

Check out our recipe for Homemade Chestnut Purée!

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The secret, I think to the marvel of the chestnut birthday cake lies not only in its use of chestnut puree.  It's also to do with the combination of the dense sweet nutty puree with the light creaminess of the whipped frosting.  A food match made in heaven, that.

We had mascarpone, a soft Italian cream cheese, in the fridge and decided to make one of our favorite frostings: white chocolate mascarpone frosting.  Delicious and light, a dream to pipe and more stable than whipped cream frosting.  But whipped cream frosting works just fine too.

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Here's the cake build.  One layer of cake, a layer of chestnut puree and a layer of whipped mascarpone.  Repeat.  

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Once the layers are done it's time for a 'crumb coat'.  This is a thin layer of frosting all around.  Don't worry if the cake shows through some, we're gonna cover it in the next step.  Stick the crumb coated cake in the fridge to firm up for 15 mins.

The firmed crumb coat will make the next and final layer of frosting go on smoothly.  Frost the cake all around in an even layer, smoothing with an offset icing spatula.  

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Time to add on the final decorative touches!  The rest of the frosting is scooped into a piping bag.  I like to pipe around the bottom edge of the cake.  Then add some big swirls of frosting around edge of the cake top, leaving plenty of room in the middle for the chestnut showpiece.

The final piece de resistance is the chestnut puree, piped out in the traditional chestnut cake way.  A string pile of chestnut puree organically heaped in a gorgeous pile in the middle of the cake.  Looks so good!  And super fun to do!  My little girl did this part and was tickled pink at the results.

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Here's the  four layers of our chestnut birthday cake after slicing.  See the chestnut cake alternating with cream and chestnut puree?  Yummilicious, amirite?!  

A feel good, really super yummilicious birthday cake!  Happy BD hubby and all other chestnut fans out there!
Chestnut Birthday Cake Recipe
(8” layered cake)  Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 35 mins  Decoration: 20 mins



Making the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).  Butter and flour cake pans.

If making chestnut purée instead of buying canned, follow our homemade chestnut purée recipe to make.

Cut butter into cubes.  Add 17oz (500g) of chestnut purée to butter and mix until creamy and smooth.

Separate egg yolks from egg whites.  Reserve egg whites in clean mixing bowl.  In separate bowl whip egg yolks and sugar for 2-3 mins or until light and pale in color.  Add rum and mix well.  Add to the beaten butter and mix til combined.

Separately, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to the wet mixture and mix only til just combined.  Don’t over mix!

Whip the reserved egg whites til firm peaks form.  Fold gently into the cake mixture.

Pour into cake tins, smoothing top with a spatula.  Bake 35-40 mins or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 mins before removing from pan.  Let finish cooling on wire rack.

Frosting the Cake:

In the meanwhile prepare frosting as per our white chocolate mascarpone cream frosting recipe.

When completely cooled cut off the domed tops of the cake off with a cake wire cutter or a large knife.  (Eat the cake tops, baker's treat, fresh from the oven!). Further slice each cake into two layers, for a total of four layers.

Reserve one of the bottom cake layers to top the cake.  Place other bottom layer on cake plate.  Top with layer of chestnut purée, approx 1/4 inch thick.  Then add 1/4 inch thick layer of cream frosting on top of that.  Repeat with the other two layers.  Finally place the reserved bottom layer upside down as the top.

Apply a thin “crumb” layer of frosting all over.  It doesn’t have to look good at this stage, just cover everything.  Let chill in fridge for 15 mins.  Apply 1/4 inch thick layer of frosting evenly over top and sides of cake, smoothing with a cake spatula.

Decorating the Cake:

Scoop the rest of the mascarpone frosting into piping bags with the piping tips of your choice.  (We used two tips, a small closed star and a very large closed star.).  Decorate with piping as desired, only leaving room in the middle of cake top for the chestnut purée decoration.  

Scoop 10oz (300g) chestnut purée into piping bag with a small round piping tip.  Pipe purée in an organic manner over the cake top area reserved, creating an elegant heaped mound.

Store cake in the fridge, bringing out 15 mins before ready to serve.  Enjoy and Happy BD to you and yours!



  1. thank you for posting this recipe! i loved eating this cake as a child on my birthday but never get the chance to have it anymore so I am looking forward to making this myself!

  2. Dear Nicole - so you're another of the chestnut cake birthday kids! Nice to meet you! Happy BD in advance and hope that our little cake tastes as good as the ones you remember!! ~ellen

  3. Do you use salted or unsalted butter in the recipe? I suspect using whipped cream will be delicious too, right? Thanks for the recipe. Look forward to making it for my husband's upcoming b-day.

    1. We used unsalted butter. As for whipped cream, YES, lots! Hope your husband likes it as much as mine did! ~ellen

  4. Which piping tool/tip did you use to generate the chestnut strands? thanks

    1. I used round tip #5 I think. It's hard to know for sure cuz there's no marking on the tip. Just use one that seems comfortable to you. ~ellen😊