Panforte on plate next to cup of espresso

Panforte: Siena's famous fruit cake

recipe food
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 20 min
Total: 50 min

Originating from Siena, panforte is a type of chewy Tuscan fruitcake. Records of panforte go back to 1206, when the nuns of the Monastery of Montecelso in Siena received “panes piperatos et melatos” - breads flavoured with pepper and honey – as a tribute.

There are two main traditional types of panforte – a white cake covered in icing sugar and a black version, covered with spices. My recipe below is a variation of the white version and calls for candied orange and lemon peel. You can also use dried figs for some of the weight which will result in a sweeter, softer panforte. If you want some of the more Western Christmas flavours, you can experiment with adding raisins, cherries or chocolate to the mixture.

Ingredients

  • 200g almonds
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 70g candied orange peel
  • 50g candied lemon peel
  • 120g high grade flour
  • 150g honey
  • 150g sugar
  • icing sugar to cover

Spices:

  • ground black pepper
  • cinnamon powder
  • ground coriander
  • cloves (I used four)
  • ground nutmeg
  • aniseed

You may want to tweak the quantity of these depending on your preferences. I've used between a third and half a teaspoon of each spice. You'll need two level teaspoons in total.

You'll also need:

  • Pastry thermometer
  • 18 cm diameter cake tin with loose bottom
  • Edible wafer paper

Directions

  1. 1
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the nuts in a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. When the nuts are ready, turn the oven down to 150°C.
  2. 2
    While the nuts are toasting, cut the wafer paper to the fit the cake tin. Line the cake tin with baking paper, then place the wafer paper on the bottom and along the sides of the cake tine.
  3. 3
    Combine the spices in a mortar and pestle and grind well. You will need to put two level teaspoons of the mixture in the panforte.
  4. 4
    Put the flour, toasted nuts, spices and chopped candied fruit in a bowl and mix well.
  5. 5
    Combine the honey and the sugar in a saucepan and heat on low. Bring the temperature up to about 130°C until the sugar has melted. Be careful that the mixture doesn't get too hot and caramelise.
  6. 6
    Remove the saucepan from the heat, let it cool for 1 minute and pour into the bowl with the other ingredients, then mix well vigorously.
  7. 7
    Spoon the mixture over the wafer paper in the baking tin and press the bottom and the edges with just moistened hands to create a uniform surface. Bake at 150°C for about 15-20 minutes.
  8. 8
    Remove the panforte from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes and remove it from the baking tin.
  9. 9
    Press the surface with the palms of your hands and sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar, then press it well.

The cake can be wrapped in baking paper, then foil and stored for up to two months at room temperature.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and contributing editor of Faraway Worlds. She travels as often as she can, usually with her husband and young son. With a background in communications, she is interested in ancient history, slow travel and sustainable tourism, and loves cooking, yoga and dance.

Last Updated August 11, 2021

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