Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire: Christmas Chestnut Coffee Cake

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Christmas Chestnut Coffee Cake. A sparkling alliteration, fit for the holiday season. Festive decadence practically rolls off the tongue, in conjunction with the four words. Coffee cakes have become somewhat of a Christmas tradition for my family, as I can rarely recall another instance during the year when I readily consumed them. And admittedly, I have never mustered up the gusto necessary to bake one – until now. Another first: roasting chestnuts. Christmas personified.

I was so impressed and jubilant about the outcome of this recipe that I actually baked it twice within a four day span. The first attempt (and success) took place at my mother’s house, in preparation for a holiday brunch. My frittata was also a featured menu item, along with the coffee cake, winter fruit salad (grapes, mango, pomegranate, raspberries, and blackberries), greens parlayed with a simple vinaigrette, and blood orange mimosas. It’s Christmas (to the nines, folks). Additionally, the color schemes of these dishes make for an aesthetically attractive Christmas brunch plate. The second instance happened just moments ago – in Durham, NC at my father’s home.

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Back to the matter at hand. The chestnuts should either be vacuum-packed or jarred/roasted, or if you’re feeling festive as hell– roasted on an open fire. Said chestnuts are then coated in brown sugar and cocoa powder, as the middle layer of the cake. The batter itself is on point (tasted and approved by both myself and my sous chef – my 11 year old sister), too. The streusel is a combination of almond flour/meal, regular flour, sugar, and salt. Layer these baking elements into a 9″ springform pan, bake for 45-55 minutes, and you’re golden (quite literally as the streusel turns to a shade of golden brown). Behold, the Christmas Chestnut Coffee Cake and the quintessential, festive finish to your Christmas morning, afternoon, or eve.

Eat, drink, and be merry. Best wishes for 2015. Special thanks to Bon Appétit for this charmer of a holiday recipe. Just in the (St.) Nick of time for Christmas.

Chestnut Coffee Cake
Recipe from the September 2014 issue of Bon Appétit
Yields 10 servings

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1/2 c. almond flour or meal
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Fresh thyme

Chestnut Filling

1/2 c. coarsely chopped vacuum-packed or jarred roasted chestnuts 
3 tbsp. light brown sugar, divided
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Fresh thyme


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. sour cream


Combine almond flour, sugar, all-purpose flour, and salt in a small bowl. Work in butter with your fingers until mixture holds together when pinched but is still crumbly; cover and chill.

Chestnut Filling

Cook chestnuts, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, and 2 tbsp. water in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is almost dry and chestnuts are coated in syrup, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Toss in cocoa and remaining 1 tbsp. brown sugar.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter pan and line bottom with a round of parchment paper; butter parchment and flour pan. Whisk baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Scrape half of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chestnut filling over; top with remaining batter, then streusel.

Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool before unmolding.

Do Ahead: Cake can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

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