How to make chocolate chestnut cake

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is all well and good — but using them in a chocolate cake is even better, says our kitchen garden cook Melanie Johnson.

It’s the time of year when gardens and parks are strewn with chestnuts — and if you’ve ever thought it’s a terrible waste not to do anything with them, you’ll be happy to know it’s surprisingly simple to make the most of this seasonal treat.

To oven-roast them, simply score the chestnuts with a cross (so they don’t explode in or out of the oven) and then soak in boiling water for a few minutes. Pat dry and place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, by which time the skins should have peeled back slightly, making them easy to reveal completely.

To serve you can simply present them as they are on a sharing dish, but you can toss them with butter and sugar, or — for a savoury option — butter, salt and rosemary.

This cake, though, takes it to a different level.

Recipe: Chocolate and chestnut cake


For the cake

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  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g soft light-brown sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1tspn vanilla-bean paste
  • 175ml boiling water
  • 2 eggs
  • 175ml soured cream
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1tspn baking powder
  • 1tspn bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 300g chestnuts, roasted and peeled
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tspn vanilla-bean paste
  • 100g 70% cocoa solid chocolate, finely chopped
  • 400ml double cream


Preheat your oven to 160˚C fan/180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and line a 20cm (8in) loose- bottomed cake tin.

Combine the cocoa powder, brown sugar, butter, vanilla-bean paste and boiling water in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and soured cream, then add them to the cake mixture. Mix again. Pour in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45–50 minutes.

Remove from the tin after 15 minutes of cooling and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling, bring to a simmer in a saucepan the chestnuts, milk, sugar and vanilla. Heat until the chestnuts are soft — about 15 minutes — being careful not to let the milk boil. Once soft, add to a processor and blend until smooth. Add the finely chopped chocolate and leave to sit for five minutes so it melts evenly, then process the mixture again.

Spoon into a clean bowl to cool (or refrigerate if not using immediately). Once cool, whip the cream until softly whipped and then, using electric beaters, mix it into the chestnut mixture. Beat until smooth.

Slice the cake horizontally into three layers and divide the filling between each, spreading with a palette knife and leaving enough to cover the whole cake. I added small swirls evenly around the top, but that is optional if you don’t like using a piping bag.

Slice and serve. Due to the cream and chestnuts, the cake needs to be refrigerated, where it will keep for a few days.