TasteFood: An Italian holiday cake confection that’s rich and easy

The name panforte refers to a festive Italian cake. This dense fruit-and-nut-jammed cake is well described by the words pan (bread) and forte (strong). Its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Siena, Tuscany, when a bread flavored with honey and pepper was paid as a tax to the local monks. More spices were added to the bread when the spice trade brought a trove of spices to Italy via Venice, and it became a Christmas tradition.

Panforte is a stiff and sticky package, a jumble of nuts, fruit, and dried spice held together by a slick of honey syrup and chocolate that hardens the cake as it cools, pushing it into the realm of confection. Panforte, as un-cakey as it may sound, is delicious. The addition of dark and unsweetened chocolate balances the sugar and provides a warming earthiness to the spice. The cake is notable for its firmness, giving the palate time to savor the small bites as they dissolve in the mouth. Panforte is best enjoyed in small slivers due to its texture, making it an ideal accompaniment to coffee or an after-dinner drink, or as a wintry addition to a cheese board.

This is an all-season cake, which means it will last the entire season. Make it now and store it in an airtight container for up to three weeks at room temperature or three months in the fridge.


Makes one (8- to 9-inch) cake


1 cup toasted, skinned, and chopped hazelnuts

1 cup toasted and chopped almonds

1 cup dried Mission figs, chopped

1/2 cup candied oranges, finely chopped

1 pound golden raisins

a third of a cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 kosher salt teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon coriander powder

1 tablespoon ground cloves

a quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup honey

granulated sugar, 3/4 cup

3 oz. finely chopped dark (72% cacao) chocolate

Confectioners’ sugar for decoration


Preheat the oven to 320°F. Line an 8- to 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and butter it.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the hazelnuts, almonds, figs, candied oranges, and raisins.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, pepper, salt, coriander, cloves, and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Blend with a whisk. Pour over the nut and fruit mixture and mix well.

Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit and nuts quickly. Stir to combine (the mixture will stiffen immediately; continue stirring to thoroughly combine). Smooth the top of the prepared cake pan (it will be sticky).

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. Transfer to a cooling rack for 30 minutes before removing from pan. Allow the cake to cool completely (it will continue to firm up). When the cake has cooled, sprinkle it with confectioners’ sugar.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply