Panforte is a decadent, rich fruitcake and an Italian favourite. Originally from Siena, this traditional sweet can now be found throughout Italy and beyond. A chewy confection full of nuts and fruit, it is perfect served with coffee.
When we visited Siena, panforte was everywhere even on the breakfast table. In many stores, there were beautifully wrapped little cakes of goodness. With many varying flavours, there was something for everyone.
Traditionally only for Christmas, this spicy sweet is now available year-round and great to have anytime! Keep this cake in the refrigerator and these Italian butter cookies in the pantry and you'll be ready for entertaining anytime.
Why you'll love this recipe
Sure, Panforte di Siena is often available at good food stores so why bother making it at home? While this delicious confection might be easy to find, it is also quite expensive. Making panforte at home is quite simple and the result is delicious. The best reason to make your own panforte is that you can suit your tastebuds and make a variation using the ingredients you enjoy the most.
The best part about this recipe is that it actually is better if it's made a few days before serving. The flavours develop and the cake sets for better slicing. So, make this and keep it on hand so you'll never be caught out without anything to serve. Don't just reserve this for coffee but add it to a cheeseboard to have with drinks or after dinner.
The ingredients you need for this recipe are simple.
- dried or candied fruit
This is a recipe that is totally up to your taste. I have used figs, candied orange slices, almonds and hazelnuts because that's what I like. You could use any combination of dried or candied fruit and nuts. Change the spices if you prefer something different. Just remember to keep to the measurements in the recipe. You can't go wrong. This is a no-fail recipe.
Why not try:-
- candied ginger, citron or other candied fruits.
- dates, raisins, sultanas or currants.
- walnuts, pistachios or pecans.
- black or white pepper, cardamom, coriander or chilli powder.
- white or milk chocolate.
These are just a few suggestions but this recipe is limited just to your imagination.
- Toast nuts and chop fruit.
- Mix in dry ingredients.
- Boil the sugar and honey for a few minutes then add the chocolate. Add to the dry ingredients.
- Press into prepared pan and bake.
Tips for success and FAQ's
The most important step not to skip is the toasting of the nuts. Just 10 minute in a moderately hot oven will bring out the flavour of nuts. Whenever you cook or bake with nuts, be sure to toast first. It's a simple step that makes all the difference.
Also, don't over bake the panforte because it will be too firm once cooled. The middle will still be soft when it's ready. Check by carefully pressing the centre. Your finger should come away clean.
Panforte originated in the Italian region of Tuscany back in the 13th century or maybe even earlier. It is derived from a cake known as panpepato or cake with pepper. Pepper was the spice of choice in the original version and can be included even today.
Yes, however you must use "1 for 1" gluten free all purpose flour or baking mix.
Tightly wrapped in plastic, it will keep for about 3-4 weeks at cool room temperature or in the fridge. Alternatively, freeze well wrapped for up to 6 months.
This post was first published on the 20th of December 2011. It has been updated with new photos, improved recipe and tips.
More Christmas recipes
Crostoli or Angel's wings
Italian Fig Cookies
Gingerbread Cupcakes from Sugar Salt Magic
Snowman Chocolate Bark from Sweet Caramel Sunday
Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Please share a photo of your creation by tagging me on Instagram @marcellina.in.cucina!
- 1 cup blanched almonds toasted
- 1 cup hazelnuts nuts toasted and skins discarded
- 1 cup chopped dried figs stems discarded
- ½ cup chopped candied orange
- 1 cup all purpose (plain) flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 cup granulated white sugar (castor)
- ⅔ cup chopped semisweet (dark) chocolate
- Preheat oven to 320°F/160ºC. Grease and line a 9in/23cm springform pan.
- Combine nuts, figs and candied orange slices in a large bowl.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa, spices, and salt and combine with nut mixture.
- Combine the honey and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar then simmer over low heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir through the chocolate until melted then remove from heat.
- Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture, nuts, and fruit and mix until well combined.
- You will find that once you add the chocolate, and remaining ingredients the mixture becomes quite firm and you will need some muscle to mix it. That all as it should be.
- Press the mixture into a prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Cool in pan before turning out and slicing thinly to serve.
- Don't skip toasting the nuts.
- Remove the panforte from the oven while the middle is still soft otherwise the cake will be too firm.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.
I absolutely loved making this recipe while so easy to make. However, I think I must be doing something wrong. Please help.
I’ve made it 3 times now to try and get a better texture. I’ve followed the recipe to a tee but it comes out quite hard each time. I’ve even reduce the cooking time to 20 mins, but it’s still hard. What am I doing wrong???
Lynda, panforte is meant to be quite firm, chewy and almost candy-like. If you prefer a softer texture, you can reduce the flour to 1/2 cup. I haven't even done this because I like the firm texture though I think it would work. Instead of reducing the flour, a 1/4 cup of water added to the honey and sugar syrup would also make it more soft. Be careful not to caramelized the syrup. Hope that helps.
Amy Liu Dong
I have never tried this, but it looks easy and delicious.
I'll save the recipe for my future reference.
A marvelous dessert recipe! We had something similar in Switzerland and your version was just as yummy!
Thanks for such wonderful feedback, Liz!