Panforte (Sienese Christmas Fruit and Nut Cake)

December 19, 2019 Updated: December 19, 2019
FONT BFONT SText size

Recipes for panforte abound, some more traditional than others, such as the version shared by Giovanni Righi Parenti in his book “La Cucina Toscana.”

Here is my version, which I settled on after years of experimenting in the kitchen to perfect the balance of ingredients.

The spices used in panforte make it unique, a sort of Tuscan gingerbread: every shop in Siena has its own secret mix. This is Giovanni Righi Parenti’s ratio, though, the same I use when I make my own panforte: 5 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of coriander seeds, 3 grams (about 2/3 teaspoon) of mace, 1 gram (about 1/4 teaspoon) of cloves, 1 gram of nutmeg. All the spices are ground together into a fine powder.

Makes one 7-inch panforte 

  • 1 sheet rice paper or parchment paper
  • 10 1/2 ounces almonds, unpeeled
  • 3 1/2 ounces hazelnuts, peeled
  • 5 ounces candied orange peel
  • 5 ounces candied citron peel
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 7-inch springform pan with rice paper.

Arrange the almonds and hazelnuts on a tray and toast them for about 15 minutes, until the almonds are golden inside when cut.

Meanwhile, cube the candied orange and citron peels and collect them in a bowl.

Add the flour, spices, and toasted almonds and hazelnuts.

Now melt the honey and powdered sugar together in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat when the honey and sugar are completely melted into a golden syrup. Pour the syrup over the other ingredients and mix well with a spoon. You should have a dense batter.

Pour the batter into the lined springform pan. Even out the surface using wet hands.

Dust the surface with powdered sugar and bake for 25–30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before releasing the cake from the pan. Don’t wait too long, otherwise the sugar will harden and make this step difficult. Once cooled, dust generously with powdered sugar. Store for weeks wrapped in baking paper. (It gets better with age!)

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” Find her online at her blog, JulsKitchen.com