Castagnaccio ~ Tuscan Chestnut Cake


This cake originated in Tuscany and was usually made in the late fall after the chestnut crop had been dried and made into flour. It is now found all over Italy but still is most commonly found just in the fall months. It is a very simple, dense cake made with chestnut flour, olive oil, raisins and pine nuts that is moistened and bound together with water and then baked. The cake is commonly flavored with a little rosemary, although I chose to leave this ingredient out and instead used just a little chopped candied orange. I have also seen recipes for Castagnaccio that call for chopped chocolate, but that is not traditionally included.

This cake is flat, often cracked on top, and is quite rich so is best served in small slices. Throughout history, the chestnut was a staple of cucina povera, providing needed nutrition for the poor. Because of this, the chestnut was used in every form imaginable, boiled, roasted, and ground into chestnut flour. Though the chestnut is no longer a food necessity, it still is important culturally in Italy today. Festivals celebrate the chestnut harvest every fall in small villages and towns across Italy. Traditionally this cake was baked in large, flat copper pans, but today you can find it baked in simple round baking tins.

Serve Castagnaccio In Small Slices

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

Castagnaccio ~ Tuscan Chestnut Cake

A traditional Tuscan cake made from chestnut flour and topped with pine nuts.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Raisins
  • 1/2 Cup Sweet Wine
  • 4 Cups Chestnut Flour
  • 2 to 3 Cups Water
  • 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 1 Teaspoon Finely Chopped Candied Orange
  • Pinch of Salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F and lightly grease a 9 inch spring-form pan.
  2. Place the raisins and sweet wine in a small saucepan and heat to boiling.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow the raisins to plump for 10 minutes, then drain, discarding wine.
  4. In a large bowl combine the chestnut flour, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, candied orange, salt, raisins and 2 cups of the water.
  5. Use a whisk to combine creating a smooth mixture adding additional water as needed.
  6. The mixture should be a little wetter than pancake batter.
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  8. Drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is set and lightly browned on top.
  9. Cool before serving.