An Italian autumnal classic, the Castagnaccio is a gluten-free cake made of chestnut flour, olive oil, dried fruits and nuts. Served with a cup of espresso (or wine) and a drizzle of honey, it is the perfect treat on a cold afternoon.
This post is sponsored by Nuts.com
One year ago I was living one of the most amazing experiences of my life, in Italy! ??
My journey lasted a month and started in Tuscany, with a food photography workshop. From there, I met my parents – who flew from Brazil to explore Italy with me – and we visited quite a few cities, like Milan, Rome, the Vatican, Sutri, Florence, Siena, Parma, Assisi, Venice, Verona and the Amalfi Coast.
We started in Milan, where my cousin lives, made our way down “the boot” by car and then back up to Venice and Milan again before flying back to NYC.
Food was amazing, the scenery was something out of a Renaissance piece and the company was the best I could have ever wished for!
But although I would love to tell you the trip was a dream come true, it just wouldn’t be true. I had just gone through a miscarriage and my heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces, which definitely got in the way of the perfect Italian experience.
But now it’s been a whole year. And while I sit here, writing this post, my baby girl screams her lungs out because she wants to be held! Funny how life turns around, isn’t it?
I think I was subconsciously missing Italy these past few days, because I’ve been craving all things Italian.
And now that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, it is time to revisit some of the dishes I experienced during my stay as I don’t want their memories to be tinted with sadness.
So when Nuts.com sent me a box full of goodies, challenging me to create a dish from at least a few items from the box, and I saw that there were chestnut flour, olive oil, cocoa powder and dried cranberries, I knew I had to make a version of the Castagnaccio I had in Tuscany!
Even though you can find Castagnaccio all over Italy, it originated in Tuscany where it would usually appear in the Fall, sold on street corners from wide copper pans or at chestnut harvest festivals in small Italian villages.
It is a very simple cake, made with local seasonal ingredients and best served in slices due to its richness.
Now, if you’ve never had Castagnaccio, you must be warned that it can be an acquired taste, especially for Americans.
The cake is traditionally not sweet, a bit heavy and very earthy, thanks to the chestnut flour. Tuscans are known for not having a sweet tooth, so it’s no surprise that their version takes no sugar at all, getting the sweetness from the dried fruit, and also doesn’t call for cocoa powder.
Well, I like my sweets sweet and I never say no to chocolate, so the Pugliese version was more appealing to me. I still added the dried fruit and nuts, which are part of the Tuscan Castagnaccio, so I guess my version is more of a hybrid!
One thing that might prevent you from making Castagnaccio is finding chestnut flour.
Well, save yourself the trouble and go straight to Nuts.com, where you will find not only the chestnut flour but most of the other ingredients that you need to make this cake!
And while you’re there, I’d strongly advise you to stock up on all your favorite nuts, because they have everything you could ever dream of, plus more. Right there, at the touch of a button!
They are also a family owned company run by some really nice people, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that those are the type of companies that deserve your money.
And then there’s the fun colorful packaging… ? Oh, I just can’t with the packaging. They make me so happy!
Okay… okay… I guess you guys got my point: I FREAKIN’ LOVE NUTS.COM! ❤️❤️❤️
And thanks to them, I got to make this beautiful rustic cake without leaving my house for ingredients.
Despite the warm chocolate-y color, the cake is not what you’d expect from a chocolate cake. It is not too sweet and tastes quite strong!
But I urge you to give it a try. And then again! Once you understand the flavor, you will be hooked just like the Tuscans are.
- 1½ cups chestnut flour
- ⅓ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cups raisins
- ½ cups dried cranberries, plumped in ¼ cup warm water (or wine - preferably Vin Santo)
- ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts
- Confectioner's sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by lightly brushing it with olive oil. Reserve.
- In a large bowl, swift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, eggs and milk.
- Slowly pour the liquids into the dry ingredients, whisking very well to avoid lumps. The batter should be smooth and a bit liquidy.
- Reserve some of the nuts and fruits to sprinkle on top of cake. Add the remaining to the batter, mixing until evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the nuts/fruits on top and bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake begins to puff slightly and the middle is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing from pan.
- Dust lightly with confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder and serve with some warm honey.