It sounds like a musical composition, appropriately enough given the Puccini connection, but castagnaccio is actually the name for a traditional Northern Italian chestnut flour cake. It is thought to have originated in Lucca in the heart of the chestnut growing area of Tuscany and also the homeland of composer Giacomo Puccini.
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Castanaccio is a dense, flat-ish cake made with chestnut flour and olive oil, sometimes studded with pine nuts and raisins. It is really an autumnal cake for the cold weather, but it’s springtime✧ and I had a part bag of chestnut flour I got from Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire that was just begging to be used. So what could I do? Hence, the variation on a theme. I was looking for a lighter cake using 100% gluten free chestnut flour… pianissimo rather that fortissimo.
[✧ An about-turn from my pervious post on hot chilli drinking chocolate!]
Chestnut Cake with Honey Glaze
Despite being dark in color, this cake is light and moist. I’ve also tried to keep the flavors simple and similar to the necci, the traditional Tuscan chestnut pancakes I made earlier.
- 4 oz. butter
- 1/2 cup ricotta (or homemade ricotta-mascarpone)
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup milk
- 3 cups chestnut flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a springform tube pan (or bundt pan) by greasing with butter and dusting with a little chestnut flour. In a mixer, cream the butter, mascarpone and sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, reserving the egg whites. Add the juice from the lemon. Alternately add the milk and the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated.
Whisk the egg whites until peaks form. One large spoon at a time, fold into the chestnut batter. Spoon into the prepared tube pan and place into the preheated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour until a knife inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
Cool on rack in its pan for 10 minutes. run a knife around the edges and along the tube, invert and remove from pan and continue cooling on the rack. While still slightly warm, but not hot, spread the honey glaze over top, letting it melt and drizzle down the sides.
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
Melt the butter and stir in the honey. When smooth, add the sifted confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, stirring until smooth. The glaze will be quite thick, but when it is applied to the warm cake, it will melt and create a glaze.