Make Ahead

Tuscan Chestnut Cake (Castagnaccio)

by:
December 17, 2014
2 Ratings
Author Notes

Castagnaccio is often called a 'cake' in English translations, but it's really something else. It's something like a dense, thick crêpe (not quite as fluffy as a pancake), rather than a 'cake'. It's hard to describe, but a description is necessary for those that have never come across the texture of this ancient, rustic and unusual Tuscan delicacy before.

Tuscans don't have much of a sweet tooth and Castagnaccio is proof of this, as it mainly relies on the naturally sweet flavor of the chestnut flour and the raisins. Ancient versions of this recipe don't even include sugar, but today usually a few spoonfuls make their way in there to boost the sweetness ever so slightly -- but it's still, pleasingly, subtle. Some grated orange zest is often added to the batter, and the walnuts can be left out or replaced with more pine nuts. Serve it on its own or with a dollop of fresh ricotta and a glass of red wine or dessert wine. —Emiko

  • Serves 8
Ingredients
  • 3 3/4 cups (400 grams) chestnut flour
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 milliliters) cold water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) pine nuts
  • sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Combine chestnut flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the water, bit by bit, stirring to avoid lumps. You are looking for a batter that will run off the back of a spoon, much like pancake batter. Depending on the quality of the flour, you may need a little more or a little less water than called for to obtain this consistency.
  2. When smooth, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the batter and let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C) and soak the raisins in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain.
  4. Pour the batter into a 12- by 8-inch (30- by 20-centimeter) baking dish lined with parchment paper. It should be no more than 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick (about 1 to 1.2 centimeters). Evenly scatter over the drained raisins, walnuts, and pine nuts. Finish with rosemary and the rest of the olive oil.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until you begin to see little cracks appear all over the top. Do not overbake or it will become very dry. Let cool in the pan then slice into squares and serve. This keeps well for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature (do not refrigerate as the texture becomes hard and rubbery).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nancy
    Nancy
  • Akiko
    Akiko
  • serafinadellarosa
    serafinadellarosa
  • Emiko
    Emiko
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.

7 Reviews

pietrasanta February 23, 2020
This recipe is not really authentic. There is absolutely NEVER sugar in castagnaccio. The raisins are never soaked or scattered on top... and a good castagnaccio should be at least 2 centimetres thick.
 
Author Comment
Emiko February 23, 2020
This is how we make castagnaccio in Florence -- it's different in many parts of Tuscany, especially the height. For example in Livorno, it is thicker and you'll find that in Florence the thicker version is considered less appealing ;). I address the sugar in the recipe intro, that it is not present in ancient recipes (obviously; it is a peasant dish after all). The reason the raisins are soaked is because they will burn if you don't and in castagnaccio of this height some of the raisins will be exposed whether or not you scatter them on top or not (my Tuscan mother in law scatters them on top - try telling her this version of her beloved castagnaccio is not authentic!). ;)
 
Nancy March 20, 2015
Hi Emiko. This looks fantastic and can't wait to try it! I'm a little confused on the amount of chestnut flour I should use, though. I think 3.75 C is more like 850 grams (if I'm doing the math right!), but your recipe says to use 400 grams. Which number would be best to use. (I'm asking because I only have 500 grams and am wondering if I need to run out and buy more before starting this!) Thank you!!
 
Author Comment
Emiko March 21, 2015
Hi Nancy, 400 grams is the correct amount to use. If you have kitchen scales, I always prefer to weigh my baking ingredients!
 
Nancy March 21, 2015
Thank you! Will try this weekend and post results.
 
Akiko January 17, 2015
Super beautiful! I must try this :)
 
serafinadellarosa December 24, 2014
When I lived in Tuscany I made this all the time. It was so easy! Always loved all the Chestnut Festivals going on there,,,the budino, etc. I have some chestnut flour in the freezer and think I'll whip one up tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder.