Recipes

Chestnut flour cake with persimmons and buttermilk

Chestnut flour cake with persimmons and buttermilk thumbnail
Tyrant Farms is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

This chestnut flour cake with persimmons and buttermilk is gluten-free and can be made with no added sugar. Naturally sweet and nutty, it makes a great healthy breakfast or dessert! 


Chestnuts: a classic ingredient

Hybrid Chinese chestnuts from our yard.

Hybrid Chinese chestnuts from our yard.

Various species of chestnuts have been a staple food crop for thousands of years throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. However, due to the functional extinction of native North American chestnuts in the 1900s due to imported chestnut blight, chestnuts are a relative culinary rarity here in the US today.   

Since we grow blight-resistant hybrid Chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima), we get lots of opportunities to use chestnuts in the kitchen. Our trees are fairly young, but they still produce loads of nuts each fall.

See: Guide to growing organic chestnuts

Chestnut flour: NOT like wheat flour

The macronutrient profile of chestnuts is much different than popular nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc. Those other nuts are high in fats and proteins, whereas chestnuts are high in complex carbohydrates with relatively little protein or fat. Hence their nickname “bread of the woods.” 

Chestnuts’ sweet nutty flavor and high carbohydrate profile means you use them differently than most nuts in the kitchen. Our favorite thing to do with our excess nuts is grind them into chestnut flour.

Chestnut flour made from our homegrown organic chestnuts.

Homemade chestnut flour.

Chestnut flour doesn’t cook like wheat flour. That’s because it has no gluten so it doesn’t bind and stick together. Also, it’s relatively heavy so it doesn’t readily form air pockets or rise.    

Chestnut flour cake

Many traditional European chestnut cakes such as Italian castagnaccio are delicious, but extremely dense. However, we wanted to create a chestnut cake that was lighter and fluffier — and something that could just as easily be a healthy breakfast as it could a dessert. 

Thus, in this chestnut cake recipe we use buttermilk which reacts strongly with the baking soda to give the cake more lift. To boost sweetness without adding refined sugar, we add a very ripe pureed Asian persimmon from our Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Japanese persimmon tree. (You could also use American persimmon pulp puree, but it’s a little heavier with a lower water content.) 

We hope you’re as happy with the resulting chestnut flour persimmon buttermilk cake recipe as we are! 

You can eat this chestnut cake as-is for a healthy breakfast. Or dress it into a sweeter dessert-like recipe (as you see here) with a dusting of powdered sugar and maple sugar drizzled on top, served with pan-roasted Asian persimmon slices.

You can eat this chestnut cake as-is for a healthy breakfast. Or dress it up into a sweeter, dessert-like recipe (as you see here) with a dusting of powdered sugar and maple sugar drizzled on top, served with pan-roasted Asian persimmon slices.

Chestnut cake notes and tips 

Please carefully read the following notes and tips before attempting to make this chestnut cake recipe, otherwise it might not turn out as expected:

1. Chestnut flour differences

As mentioned, we use homemade chestnut flour made from our hybrid Chinese chestnuts. (See: How to make chestnut flour.) However, you can also buy quality organic chestnut flour online.

There are likely subtle cooking differences between flour made from European versus Asian chestnuts, not to mention the various hybrids. And if you make your own chestnut flour like we do, your homemade flour is probably not going to be as light and finely ground as commercial chestnut flours unless you happen to have a flour mill. 

What to do? We recommend using a kitchen scale to ensure you use the exact same quantity of chestnut flour as the recipe calls for: 172 grams.

172 grams of chestnut flour measured at about 1 1/4 cups with our homemade flour. However, 1 1/4 cups of commercial chestnut flour would likely weigh less. 

2. Sift your chestnut flour, especially if it’s homemade. 

When baking with our chestnut flour, we always pre-sift it before beginning a recipe. This way, any larger bits can be removed so you don’t end up with unpleasantly hard chunks.  

Sifting chestnut flour to remove larger bits prior to use. Left: starting point. Center: larger bits sifted out. Right: grinding chestnut bits into finer flour.

Sifting chestnut flour to remove larger bits prior to use. Left: Starting point. Center: Larger bits sifted out. Right: Grinding chestnut bits into finer flour.

Once the larger chestnut bits are sifted out, you can either set them aside for use in recipes where they’ll work fine (like chestnut breakfast porridge), or you can grind them into finer flour with a mortar and pestle to be used immediately. 

3. Asian persimmons – and stages of ripeness

There’s one soft, very ripe Asian persimmon pureed and baked into this chestnut cake recipe. (We used skin and all.)

If you’re a precise baker like we are, use 148 grams or 5.2 ounces of persimmon puree. 

Pureed Asian persimmon.

Pureed Asian persimmon.

If you want to also use pan-roasted persimmons to dress up the dish when plating, use firmer, less ripe Asian persimmons. More on that below!

Related read: How to store Asian persimmons and use them at various stages of ripeness.

4. Batter consistency and sweetness

Once all your ingredients are combined, you’ll have a very wet batter similar to breakfast bread or cornbread batter. This is especially true if you’re using homemade chestnut flour that isn’t ground to a super-fine consistency wherein it immediately absorbs the moisture.  

This chestnut cake recipe has a very wet batter. Here's a look at the final consistency once all the ingredients have been incorporated.

This chestnut cake recipe has a very wet batter. Here’s a look at the final consistency once all the ingredients have been incorporated.

Also note that our base recipe is NOT a sweet cake – at least not by American standards. Chestnuts are naturally sweet, as are persimmons, but there’s no added sugar. 

If you want a sweeter cake, add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. If possible, our recommendation would be to use maple sugar, rather than cane sugar.

5. Type of pan and resulting bake times

We love to bake in our antique cast iron pans. For this recipe we use a Wagner #8, which is actually 9″ wide x 2″ deep with sloping sides. Our chestnut cake was perfectly baked at 30 minutes on 350°F (177°C).

Left: Chestnut cake just out of the oven after 35 minutes. It's reminiscent of corn bread. Right: Showing the finished internal consistency and crumb.

Left: Chestnut cake just out of the oven after 35 minutes. It’s reminiscent of corn bread. Right: Showing the finished internal consistency and crumb.

Cast iron pans are thick and dense, so a chestnut cake will cook a bit slower in a cast iron pan versus standard aluminum cake pans. If you don’t have a 9″ cast iron pan, use a standard 9″ cake pan, but note that your cake may finish baking a bit faster at around 25 minutes. 

6. Serving… Sweet or not? Pan-roasted persimmons? 

Once your chestnut cake is out of the oven, let it cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before attempting to cut and serve it. 

We actually think the cake tastes better after it’s rested for a half day or more, then been reheated. 15-20 seconds per slice in the microwave suffices. 

The first slice of chestnut cake coming out of the pan!

The first slice of chestnut cake coming out of the pan!

We also like to serve this recipe with a side of pan-roasted Asian persimmons. Peel and slice firm but ripe (not soft) Asian persimmons exposing the beautiful internal star pattern inside (vestigial seed pockets). One persimmon produces about 5 slices.  

Note: some Asian persimmon varieties are seedless, some are partially seedless, and others have seeds. Ours are usually seedless but we’ll occasionally find a seed.

Slicing and pan-frying Asian persimmon slices.

Slicing and pan-roasting Asian persimmon slices.

Sauté the sliced persimmons in butter on a skillet over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Once plated, you can decide whether you want to sweeten things up more with a drizzle of maple syrup, a dusting of powdered sugar, etc. 

As noted in the recipe card below, you can also add sugar when making the batter to produce a sweeter cake. 

Recipe: Chestnut flour cake with persimmons & buttermilk

Dress up our basic chestnut flour cake recipe with syrup and pan-roasted persimmons to make it into a dessert or a sweet breakfast akin to pancakes.

Dress up our basic chestnut flour cake recipe with syrup and pan-roasted persimmons to make it into a dessert or a sweet breakfast.

Recipe: Chestnut persimmon buttermilk cake
Print

Chestnut flour cake with persimmons and buttermilk

Course: Breakfast, brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chestnut breakfast recipe, chestnut cake, chestnut dessert recipe, chestnut flour cake, chestnut persimmon recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Susan von Frank

This chestnut flour cake with persimmons and buttermilk is gluten-free and can be made with no added sugar. Naturally sweet and nutty, it makes a great healthy breakfast or dessert! 

Ingredients

  • 172 grams chestnut flour (See notes in article. Our homemade chestnut flour measured to about 1 1/4 cups at this weight but commercial chestnut flour is likely lighter, so we recommend using a kitchen scale to get precise amounts.)
  • 1 soft very ripe Japanese persimmon, pureed skin and all (148 grams or 5.2 ounces persimmon puree)
  • 1/2 cup organic buttermilk (All we could find was low fat buttermilk, so we can’t say for certain what difference full fat buttermilk would make to texture or bake time - probably not much.)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup MELTED unsalted grass-fed butter  (plus more UNmelted butter to coat baking pan)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp (optional) maple sugar or cane sugar (Only add sugar if you want a sweeter cake, as per notes in article)

Pan-roasted persimmons for side

  • firm but ripe Japanese persimmon slices (1 persimmon = 5 slices so you'll want at least one persimmon per every 2 servings of chestnut cake)
  • butter for pan

Optional toppings

  • maple syrup, powdered sugar, maple sugar, nutmeg dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter 9" cast iron pan or cake pan.

  2. Puree persimmon and set aside. Sift chestnut flour to remove any larger bits/chunks.

  3. Mix dry ingredients in bowl and set aside.

  4. Using either an electric mixer or a bowl & whisk, beat eggs. Add other wet ingredients. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients until fully incoprorated.

  5. Pour batter into buttered pan and put into pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, until the cake is firm in the middle and a toothpick pulls out clean. Remove from oven and cool on baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. We think it tastes best once it's rested for at least 6 hours then each slice is reheated in the microwave for 15 seconds.

  6. Serve warm as-is or serve with a side or pan-roasted persimmons as per article notes. Optional: drizzle with maple syrup, powedered sugar, or other sweet toppings.

Let us know how your chestnut persimmon buttermilk cake turns out! 

KIGI,

Tyrantfarms

Other chest nutty articles you’ll want to chew on:

stay in touch

Like what you're seeing here? Please be sure to subscribe to Tyrant Farms so we can let you know about new articles you'll love.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Jason Sutter
    November 27, 2022 at 11:21 am

    It looks delicious. I hope I can eat Chestnut, but unfortunately, I’m allergic to eat. Thank you for sharing this, Susan.

Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating




How to grow elderberries and elderflowers, organically! How to sex a duck: is it male or female? Discover 16 common edible weeds growing near you! How to grow pineapple guavas (feijoa) in cooler climate regions Duck eggs vs chicken eggs: a 7-point comparison 17 tips: keep your backyard ducks or chickens safe from predators