This wintery cake combines chestnuts and red wine and has no added fat. Contributing blogger and cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky, who developed the recipe, explains:
“Infused with a generous pour of Cabernet from the start and doused with an additional slug of brown sugar-enriched wine syrup—soaking each nook and cranny with a strong dose of sweet red wine—this cake knows how to party.
“Studded with large pieces of roasted chestnuts, it’s a seasonal treat that’s perfect for the cold winter months.
Though the jubilant days of Christmas and New Year’s feel like a lifetime ago, the current series of snow days are an excellent excuse to batten down the hatches and drown your sorrows—not in a stiff drink, but a strong slice of this tender cake.”
If you don’t want cake for “happy hour,” enjoy it as a snack at any time of day, or for dessert with a bit of whipped cream. Don’t forget—the cake is fat-free.
We’d also recommend it as a gourmet Super Bowl dessert.
“Purely by accident,” explains Hannah, “the recipe became much leaner than intended by my inadvertent omission of any added fat. So while this isn’t diet fare, it is a better-for-you cake.
“Happily, the texture doesn’t suffer one bit without the oil. I would have never realized my mistake if not for my recipe notes. I guess it’s obvious that not all of the wine made it into the cake!”
 Chestnuts roasted in a specialty chestnut pan (photo © Histomil).
RECIPE #1: TIPSY CHESTNUT CAKE
Ideally, prepare the cake a day in advance to allow the wine syrup to thoroughly meld with the crumb.
Since you need less than 1-1/4 cups of wine, you can use up leftover wine—or serve the rest of a new bottle with the cake.
Ingredients For 8-10 Servings
Merlot or Pinot Noir)
1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F with rack in the center. Lightly grease and flour an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.
2. WHISK together the flour, sugar, five-spice powder, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the chopped chestnuts and toss to coat with the flour blend to prevent the pieces from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Set aside.
3. MIX the wine, applesauce, and vanilla in a separate bowl; then add to the wet goods into the flour mix. Use a wide spatula to combine, stirring just enough to blend without over-mixing. It’s perfectly fine to have a few lumps remaining.
4. TRANSFER the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top before sliding the pan into the oven. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until deeply browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking…
5. PREPARE the red wine syrup by combining the wine, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. If you’d like the wine to retain a bit of its alcoholic bite, cook just until the sugar has dissolved. Alternatively, allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes for the alcohol to boil out.
6. PREPARE the baked cake while it is still warm by poking it numerous times with a skewer. Go deep to allow the syrup to penetrate far into the crumb. Pour the hot syrup over the cake and let cool completely before removing it from the pan. Although the cake tastes best the next day after soaking a bit, it’s quite delicious to slice and serve as soon as it’s cool.
What is Chinese five-spice powder?
Like adobo, chili powder, curry powder, fines herbes, garam masala, herbes de provence, ras-el-hanout, togarishi, za’atar, and other global spice blends, the ingredients and the proportion of ingredients vary based on the cook or the manufacturer. Some five-spice recipes include anise seed, black or white pepper, cardamom, galangal, ginger, licorice, mandarin peel, nutmeg, and turmeric.
Since the five-spice powder is also used in other Asian cuisines and in Middle Eastern cooking, there are regional preferences as well.