This Castagnaccio holds a very special place in my heart. It was the last recipe that I created (or should I say put my spin on) whilst I was in England, in my Auntie Shelley’s kitchen. A kitchen that will always be one of my favourite places in this world. That kitchen was the scene of many moments of breakdown, of deep conversations, of unravelling, of discovery. It was also the kitchen I was sat in when I booked that long awaited repatriation flight home.
This time two years ago I arrived in England so as a celebration to everything that leap gave me, taught me and showed me I share my spin on this Italian Classic. You can read about ‘The Leap’ here.
Now I’m sure the first thing you are thinking is “Where am I going to get Chestnut Flour from?” quickly followed by “Can I substitute it?”
I’m pride myself on finding ways to switch up recipes, giving substitutes to allow everyone to enjoy their faves. But this one is different. Whilst I have taken out the refined sugar and dairy, you really can’t have a Castagnaccio aka Chestnut Cake, without the Chestnut Flour. The sweetness that Chestnut Flour brings really does make this cake something special.
As I said I was in England when I made this and my Auntie was gifted this flour. But I do know that it can be found in Health Food Stores and Deli’s. If you can’t find it local to you, it can be purchased online. And I highly suggest doing that because this cake is simply devine!!
Traditionally Castagnaccio was made in Tuscany in the autumn as Chestnuts came into season. Combine this with olive oil, dried fruit and nuts, this cake has a real feeling of indulgence, flavour and depth that only Italian food can deliver.
Now Italians and purists are probably not going to be impressed that I have ‘played’ around with what is a very traditional recipe. I have kept the foundation of Chestnut Flour, olive oil and the earthiness that the Castagnaccio is known for.
Where I have steered off course was with adding in a little cacao, because well chocolate… but also wanted to continue with the earthy flavours. I have used some dried fruit and a little coconut sugar to add just a hint of sweetness. Now it is only a hint. This cake is not a sweet one. Nor is it a chocolate cake despite the cacao. Both of this modifications are subtle to keep the traditional taste of a Castagnaccio.
Enjoy your Castagnaccio served with a cup of espresso (or wine) and a drizzle of honey. It really is the perfect treat on a cool afternoon.
What Do I Need?
- 1 1/2 cups Chestnut Flour
- 1/3 cup Coconut Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 2 tablespoons Cacao
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lightly flavoured
- 2 tablespoons Raw Honey, plus extra for serving
- 2 Eggs, large
- 1 cup Almond Milk
- 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 cups Dried Cranberries, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water (or an Italian Dessert Wine)
- 1/3 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup Hazelnuts, roughly chopped + toasted
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, roughly chopped (optional)
- Powdered Coconut Sugar for dusting
Let’s Do This!
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare a 20cm spring loaded cake pan by lightly brushing it with olive oil.
2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, add in the coconut sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, rosemary if using and salt.
3. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk together the olive oil, honey, eggs and almond milk.
3. Pour the liquids slowly into the dry ingredients, whisking very well to avoid lumps. The batter should be smooth and a bit liquidy.
4. Reserve some of the nuts and fruits to sprinkle on top of cake. Add the nuts and fruits to to the batter. Reserve some of the nuts and fruits to sprinkle on top of cake. Mix until evenly distributed.
5. 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.
6. Dust lightly with powered coconut sugar and serve with some warm raw honey.
This recipe serves 8-10. It is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free.