As the holiday season approaches and family tables beckon with a bounty of traditional delicacies, there’s one Italian dessert that stands out for its remarkable tapestry of flavors — Panforte. This Tuscan treasure, originating from the medieval city of Siena, embraces the warm hum of spices, the sweet, chewy succulence of candied fruits, and the rich, earthy crunch of toasted nuts.
Panforte’s magic lies in its balance – it’s dense without being too heavy, sweet but not cloying, spiced yet not overwhelming.
Let me share with you a traditional recipe for this delicious dessert that I’ve found!
Total Active Time: About 45-60 minutes.
Total Inactive Time: 1-2 hours or more for cooling.
Overall Total Time: ~ 2-3 hours from start to finish
What You Need To Make Panforte Cake
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powderer
- 1 cup almond
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup hazelnut
- 1/2 cup shaved dark chocolate (optional but highly recommended)
- 1 cup dried figs (optional)
- 1.5-2 cups candied fruit (or 2-3 cups if you don’t use dried figs)
- 5 cloves, ground
- wafer paper (or rice paper)
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Nuts – Walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds (for a nut-free option), sunflower seeds (for a nut-free option)
- Candied Fruit – Candied lemon peel, candied cherries, candied pineapple, dried fruits like raisins, sultanas, or currants, dried apricots, chopped, dried cranberries or blueberries
- Flour – Gluten-free flour blend
- Spices – Either omit, ground ginger, or allspices
- Honey – Maple syrup
- Sugar – Brown sugar
- Powdered sugar – Icing sugar
- Cocoa/Chocolate – Chocolate chips or even a chocolate mixture consisting of different kind
How to Make Traditional Panforte
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) while you line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment and sides of the bowl – this is for a small cake, if you want a bigger one, adjust everything and take a bigger form.
Note: Some traditional recipes also line the bottom with rice paper (edible wafer paper) to prevent sticking.
Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, combine the toasted almonds and hazelnuts with the candied orange peel, citron, and dried figs – if you have a food processor, use it!
Step 3: Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and white pepper – stir until everything is well coated.
Step 4: For the syrup, prepare a saucepan over medium heat and combine the sugar and honey. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is boiling, then let it boil for a couple of minutes until it reaches the “soft ball” stage (about 240°F on a candy thermometer).
Step 5: Quickly pour the hot syrup over the nut and fruit mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Step 6: Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and with wet hands or a wet spatula, put it on the wire rack in the oven – press it down flat, as it will be very sticky (using something wet will make it easier on you).
Step 7: Bake in a preheated oven at 300°F (150°C) for 30-40 minutes. The Panforte should be set but soft in the middle – it will harden as it cools.
Step 8: Allow the Panforte to cool for a couple of hours in the pan before removing it. Once completely cool, dust the top layer generously with powdered sugar – that’s it!
Tip: You can also garnish the top of the cake with some chocolate shavings.Traditionally, Panforte doesn’t have to be served fresh, it can last and even improve over a few weeks – so, yes! You can make this delicious cake ahead of time for your traditional Italian Christmas.
This Italian fruit cake recipe is incredibly easy to make, however, here are a few tips to make it even easier for you.
While you can buy grocery store made toasted nuts, toasting the nuts yourself will always taste better – therefore, have the cake taste better. If you are toasting them yourself, make sure they’re cooled down enough before mixing them with other ingredients.
When cutting the Panforte, use a sharp knife dipped in hot water, as the cake is a bit sticky, making the cutting much easier.
What to Serve it With
If you’re looking for ideas on how to pair this with other dishes, I can only recommend these:
- Dessert Wines such as Vin Santo, Port, or the late-harvest Riesling (personally, I think any sweet or dry white wine will work)
- Espresso or a rich cappuccino can balance the sweetness with a bitter contrast.
- Strong black tea, like Earl Grey or Chai, with their own spice notes
- Glass of Amaretto, Sambuca, or Frangelico
- Aged Cheeses – aged Parmigiano-Reggiano or a mature cheddar
- Soft Cheeses – Creamy mascarpone or a mild brie provide
- Blue Cheese – Gorgonzola or Roquefort
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Got questions? We’ve got the answers!
Can Panforte be made gluten-free?
Yes! To make gluten-free Panforte, use a gluten-free flour blend or almond flour.
How should Panforte be stored?
Wrap your Panforte in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container. You can easily store it at room temperature for several weeks – as with all Italian food, the flavor tends to even improve over time.
ou only have a long shelf life here because this recipe doesn’t have a beaten egg or egg yolks.
What is the difference between Panforte and fruitcake?
Great question! While both Panforte and fruitcake contain fruits and nuts, Panforte is denser and chewier, with a more concentrated spice flavor, and typically contains less cake batter. Fruitcake, on the other hand, usually has a lighter texture with a more pronounced cakey crumb.
How do you cut Panforte without it sticking to the knife?
Oh yeah, very frustrating! To cut Panforte without sticking to the knife, dip your knife in hot water and wipe it clean between cuts or lightly oil the blade.
Can you make Panforte without candied fruit?
Yes! While traditional Panforte includes candied fruit, you can use an equal amount of dried fruit such as figs, apricots, or dates for a different but still delicious result.
Technically, you could also use fresh fruit, but then you will get much juicier and moist version, which then wouldn’t be Panforte anymore (if you do give this a try, let us know how it is!).Print