Chestnut cake with pan-roasted pears and chestnut honey syrup

November 22, 2009

There’s always a good reason to host a holiday brunch: Family is visiting, friends are dropping by for the day or you might just decide it’s the perfect way to celebrate the holidays in a more relaxed fashion.

All are good excuses to make a beautiful, simple meal that everyone will love. And of course, no festivities are complete without dessert.

To me the perfect brunch dessert is one that is not too sweet, not too rich and especially not chocolaty — this chestnut cake fits the bill!

Chestnuts have always been a favorite of mine. As a child I adored marrons glacés (a French specialty of sweetened, whole chestnuts) so much that I would request them as a gift for my birthday or at Christmastime.

Thankfully my adult taste buds are less prone to intensely sweet morsels. So I turned to chestnut flour* to create a cake that would capture the essence of those beloved childhood treats. Slightly sweet, a little spongy and packed with that oddly delicious chestnut flavor, this cake is an ideal holiday brunch dessert.

Served with warm pan-roasted Bartlett pears and a little chestnut honey* syrup, it’s absolutely enchanting and even a little addictive.

* Chestnut flour can be found in Italian specialty shops, or online at ChestnutsOnline. It is also gluten-free.
* Chestnut honey is a specialty of Italy and Southern France. It can be found in gourmet food stores, or online at EuroGrocer

Chestnut Cake with Pan-Roasted Pears and Chestnut Honey Syrup

makes 1 medium cake or 8 servings
active time: 40 min

For the cake

  1. 1 1/4 cups chestnut flour (gluten-free)
  2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  3. pinch sea salt
  4. 3 large eggs – at room temperature
  5. 2/3 cup organic sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 12 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted and slightly cooled
  1. 1 – 9″ non-stick round spring-form cake pan – buttered and floured

For the pan-roasted pears

  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 2 medium, ripe Bartlett or red pears – peeled and cut in 1/2″ slices
  3. 1 tablespoon organic sugar

For the chestnut honey syrup

  1. 1/2 cup chestnut honey
  2. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. herb sprig as garnish
  2. powdered sugar as garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177ºC).
  2. Step 1: In a small bowl, combine the chestnut flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Step 2: Place the eggs in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, using the whisk attachments, whip at high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft peaks form and the mixture is a pale cream color. Add the sugar gradually, until well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla. Continue whipping at high speed for another 30 seconds.
  4. Step 3: With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, fold the chestnut flour mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Then fold in the butter. Do not overmix or the cake will not rise.
  5. Step 4: Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until just golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in its mold to room temperature before serving.
  6. Step 5: When ready to assemble the dessert, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the pear slices and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle the pear slices with the sugar and flip them, being careful not to break them. Continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Remove pear slices from pan and set aside.
  7. Step 6: Return the pan just used for sautéing the pears to the stove, and heat over medium heat. Add the honey and lemon juice and turn off the heat. Stir until the honey becomes liquid-y (about 5 seconds) and set aside.
  8. Step 7: To serve, place a slice of cake in the center of a dessert plate. Place a few warm pear slices next to it. Drizzle with the chestnut honey syrup. Garnish with an herb sprig, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
  9. Cook’s note: The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature, in a cool place. The pears and syrup should be made right before serving.

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Viviane’s Tip
The cake should be prepared one day ahead, as its texture will improve with a little rest. All that remains to be done before serving is to pan-roast the pears and make the syrup, which only takes a few moments.

Here’s another beautiful dessert for a festive brunch: Roasted plums with cognac and cardamom gelato.

dessert, cake, chestnut
© 2011 Viviane Bauquet Farre Food & Style NY LLC

Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

miranda November 22, 2009 at 8:13 pm

What a great unique cake. It sounds wondrful.

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Marc November 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Yummy!

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chocolate shavings November 23, 2009 at 12:01 am

Chestnuts always say holiday food for me – this dessert is no exception, it sounds delicious!

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tastyeatsathome November 23, 2009 at 8:45 am

This sounds wonderful. I must seek out chestnut flour – I haven’t seen it in any of the stores. I buy a lot of specialty flours, since I bake gluten-free – this will be another “must-have” to add to the list!

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Vegetable Matter November 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

I’ve never baked with chestnut flour. Going to definitely seek it out now. Your cake looks amazing!

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Shelly Huang November 23, 2009 at 10:52 am

I love everything chestnut flavored! I wonder though, where did you find your chestnut flour and chestnut honey!? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it before!

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Cheah November 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

This is one cake that I’ve never seen or heard before, but it sure looks lovely. Just feel like having a bite of it!

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Miriam November 23, 2009 at 11:27 am

This cakes sounds awesome! Thanks!

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Tasty Trix November 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

I love this – would honey work instead of sugar? I have a gluten intolerant friend who also can’t eat refined sugar, and I’d love to make this for him. (I am assuming chestnut flour is gluten free?)

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Viviane Bauquet Farre November 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Tasty Trix, yes chestnut flour is gluten free. As for replacing the sugar with honey… I’m not sure it will work as it might make the batter to “wet”…

Shelly Huang, The info for buying chestnut flour & chestnut honey is in my post – look for the “*” info.

Thank you all for your wonderful comment… :)

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Jessie November 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

beautiful cake and it is perfect for the holidays

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Dhale November 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Beautiful photos and the cake sounds delicious! Now I just need to find chestnut flour…

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lisaiscooking November 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This not too sweet cake sounds wonderful! The chestnut flavor must be lovely.

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traveleatlove November 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

This cake looks just gorgeous! I am posting about chestnut soup tonight. I love their abundance this time of year!

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Danielle December 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm

This looks so elegant and delicious!

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Dawn@CocinaSavant December 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm

this sounds wonderful and looks absolutely delicious! you share some of the most unique and tasty sounding recipes, thank you for the inspiration to keep experimenting!!!

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Lily December 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

I made the brussels sprouts with chestnut as a side dish for Thanksgiving. It was great. The maple syrup gave such a wonderful compliant. Everyone loves the dish including some children. That was a surprise. I will make it again while it is still in season.

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Jennifer Cote December 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Sounds awesome. Where do you find your chestnut flour?
If you like chestnuts, you may like this soup too…
Thanks for the yummy post :)

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Liz December 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

You had me with pan roasted pears!!! What a lovely cake…and perfect for brunch.

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irena December 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Very nice recipe…love chestnuts:)

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torviewtoronto December 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

delicious cake looks wonderful

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TiffKey December 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

This sounds great! I’ve never baked with chestnut flour, but given chestnuts’ nutritional benefits and this delicious looking cake, it seems that I should start!

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Donna Ford April 25, 2011 at 9:47 am

It looks so moist and delicious. Great photo!

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Jennifer Eloff October 9, 2011 at 10:37 am

Super – how unusual! I’ve never actually thought of using something like chestnut flour. I’ll have to Google it. I love how you cook and bake with pears. That is unusual as well, but a good Fall or Thanksgiving idea.

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Lori Lynn December 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm

What a lovely cake Viviane! I am currently in love with chestnuts. Last night we made a salad with chestnuts and persimmons, can’t wait to share.
Gotta find that chestnut honey…
LL

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