Castagnaccio – Italian Chestnut Cake

by Jenn on November 12, 2009

in Desserts,Diabetic Friendly,Gluten Free


At my local natural foods store, I found this awesome new (well, new for me) gluten free flour that I had never tried before – Italian chestnut flour.  I love chestnuts, and for sure thought that I would come up with some great use for this.  The actual idea for making castagnaccio came from a suggestion by @NJSpice on Twitter.  Castagnaccio is a traditional grain free Tuscan dessert, using chestnut flour as the “substance” for the cake batter.  This is not a sweet cake at all, and the only sugar comes from the pieces of dried fruit.  I blended two different recipes together to create this version here.

Because it is grain free and there is no sugar, this cake is perfect for making for my diabetic mom!  She was really excited at the prospect of eating a cake, a real cake, and it didn’t have to be modified at all for her to be able to enjoy it!  Well, I did modify it slightly.  She hates raisins with a passion (they were in the original recipe), so I replaced the raisins with dried figs, which I thought would go well, even if figs aren’t particularly Tuscan.

The result is a brown cake with a cracked crust – very dense, but quite tasty – the chestnut flavor comes through very well through the use of the flour, and the figs worked very well.  I’m not sure how traditional this is, but we have been enjoying this cake for dessert with a little bit of butter spread on top.  Because it is so dense, you really do not need a large serving size – I got a good 12 servings out of my little pan here.   I have also come to find that I like to eat this with crème de marrons (chestnut cream) spread on my cake instead of butter.

This is my submission to this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! hosted  this time by Elana of Elana’s Pantry.  The theme?  Grain Free Cakes.  I found this a bit of a challenge, simply because most of the GF baking I’ve ever done has involved rice flour, or quinoa, etc.  But I’m really glad that I did, because this was a great dessert and it’s always fun to push your comfort zone a bit by trying out new recipes/styles of baking!


Adapted from Ilva of Lucullian Delights and Piatti Toscani

14 oz. (396 g) Italian style chestnut flour
1/4 c. walnut meal
about 2 and 1/4 c. milk, room temp
a well rounded 1/4 c. of pine nuts, toasted
6 dried figs, chopped
about 1 tsp. rosemary
pinch salt
olive oil

1. Preheat an oven to 350F.  Mix the chestnut flour and walnut meal together, and stir in the milk. It should be a thick batter.
2.  Stir in the pine nuts, figs, rosemary and salt.
3. Grease a small pan with the olive oil, and then fill with your batter.  Use a spatula to spread out the top so that it is even. Sprinkle more rosemary on top.
4. Bake until browned and cracked on top, a good 30 min.  Because I used such a small pan, mine had to go for closer to 40 min.
5. Let cool and then slice and eat!