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!



Valérie November 12, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I had never heard of this cake, but it sounds very intriguing… And I like its rustic, crackled look. Thanks for sharing!

Lauren November 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Mmm! Love the idea of a chesnut cake =D. Lots of delicious flavours in there!

orianapapa November 23, 2009 at 8:18 am

Hi great suggestion, I’m tuscan and it’s really very close to the original!in november we make it very often around florence and tuscany more generally, I have a slightly different version, here it is:
please let me know what you think and ask me just about anything regarding tuscan food and wine!

cheryl November 30, 2009 at 9:23 pm

this looks lovely…I made a version years ago and it’s time to bring it back!

Marillyn @ just-making-noise December 1, 2009 at 12:20 am

Looks wonderful! Never heard of chestnut flour… must see if I can find that. Found you through Elana’s Pantry!

Tracee December 1, 2009 at 11:43 am

What a beautiful cake. I have never used chestnut flour before, I’ll have to give it a try.

Marissa December 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm

That looks absolutely heavenly! I will be looking for Italian chestnut flour now. My father adores Italy and I am sure this would make an excellent addition to his Christmas Eve table!

gfe--gluten free easily December 6, 2009 at 2:23 am

I really want to try chestnut flour, but have not found it around here. I’ve been reluctant to order a large amount, in case I find out I have issues with it. I’d love to sample it AND this cake though. 😉


The Curious Baker December 9, 2009 at 9:50 am

Is this more of a savoury recipe, I noticed there wasn’t any suagr in it. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while…not sure where I’d get the walnut meal though

Jenn December 9, 2009 at 9:53 am

Yes, it is not a sweet cake by any means. But it is really good sliced up with a little bit of butter on it! I found walnut meal in my regular grocery store actually, if you can’t find any you could either make your own by grinding some up a food processor or even omitting it, walnut meal is not a traditional ingredient in castagnaccio.

The Curious Baker December 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm

ah so I don’t need the walnut meal, that’s great news, I’ll definitely give it a go now, I’m curious to see what it’ll taste like. Thanks!

jas October 28, 2010 at 3:13 am

ooo – yum! I have a bag of chestnut flour at home that I’ve been wanting to find a recipe for – this looks like just the thing!

Jenn October 28, 2010 at 7:28 am

Oh thanks, hope you like it! I love the flavor of chestnuts…

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