The Origin Story Of Chantilly Cake Begins In New Orleans

Not to be confused with Chantilly cream, the swoon-worthy sweetened, vanilla-flavored whipped cream of debated origins, Chantilly cake is a relatively new presentation showcasing the decadently delicious, yet oh-so-simple cream of the same name. In fact, its most recent incarnation debuted well into the 21st century. In 2005, Chaya Conrad, a bakery manager at a Whole Foods store in New Orleans, put her own twist on a classic. A star was born. When Conrad reimagined Chantilly cake, she thought she was simply updating a longtime New Orleans favorite. Instead, she inadvertently launched a new era for the berry-and-cream confection, creating a cake that's become a social media sensation. 

But who invented the original? Despite the uncertain details of its genesis, it's a pretty good bet Chantilly cream originated in France, so we'll go with that. Tracing the history of Chantilly cake is a little more complicated. By some accounts, chefs at Antoine's, a longtime New Orleans institution and home to oysters Rockefeller, invented Chantilly cake. But, the timeline doesn't work. That theory posits the cake debuted at Antoine's in 1829. The catch is, Antoine's didn't open until 1840. A more plausible story of origin is a simple tale of favorite family recipes passed — and tweaked — through generations. At least that's the case with Conrad's creation — a yellow cake layered with frosting made from cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, and almond extract. It's a confection inspired by a cake her grandmother made.

Chantilly cake's family ties

While Conrad didn't reveal exactly how she was inspired by her grandmother's recipe, we do know that common variations of Chantilly cake range from almond sponge cake with Chantilly cream filling to simple yellow cake with crème mousseline (a blend of pastry cream and butter). Of course, any authentic Chantilly cake features the requisite fresh berries — usually a stunning combination of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. 

Whatever it was she took from her grandmother's recipe, the Chantilly cake Conrad made for Whole Foods was an instant hit. So much so that Whole Foods, and its parent company Amazon Technologies, ultimately trademarked the name Berry Chantilly. The name, not the recipe. That's because U.S. law makes it extremely difficult to copyright a recipe. With nothing standing in her way, Conrad has since shared not only her recipe, but also the secret to her success: stabilized whipped cream

Conrad left Whole Foods in 2009. She did a stint at Rouse Markets where she created yet another successful Chantilly cake incarnation. In 2017, she opened Bywater Bakery, where she continues to tweak the recipe with innovations like replacing cake flour with almond flour. Despite all the hoopla, Conrad remains matter-of-fact about the cake that caused a social media storm of approval, telling Today, "It's not like I made up the idea of whipped cream and berries. It's a classic combination ... I took inspiration from something that my grandmother used to make."