Italian Christmas Recipes/ Italian Desserts

Panforte – Tuscan Fruit and Nut Cake

December 9, 2020 by Emily

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Panforte di Siena – a Tuscan Christmas cake made with candied fruit, nuts, festive spices and dusted with powdered sugar. This dense and chewy fruitcake is such a delicious Christmas treat and perfecting for gifting!

Panforte on a wooden table cut into slices with christmas decorations around

As soon as you bite into panforte it instantly tastes of Christmas, the combination of warming spices, candied fruit and nuts make the most delicious festive treat.

Just like Ricciarelli (probably my fav Christmas cookie), this cake originated in Siena, Tuscany, and was originally named Panpepato due to the strong spices and pepper used.

After living in Siena for 2 years we tasted a lot of panforte and there are so many variations, I loved seeing the displays of it in bakery windows all wrapped in beautiful paper for gifting.

This recipe is super easy to make at home and lasts up to 3 weeks (possibly longer) so it’s perfect for wrapping up as a Christmas gift for your friends and family but trust me, you’ll want to keep some for yourself too it’s just too delicious to resist.

Ingredients – what you need

To make panforte you need flour (Italian 00 or all-purpose flour), mixed nuts (we used blanched almonds and hazelnuts), candied mixed peel, runny honey, sugar, spices (ground cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and nutmeg), and powdered sugar for dusting.

The essential equipment you need to make panforte is a springform cake pan (we used a 7.5 inch), baking parchment or rice paper, and a silicone spatula for mixing the sticky honey mixture.

See the photo below that shows all the ingredients you need!

An overhead shot of all the ingredietns you need to make panforte

How to make Panforte – step by step

Mix the flour, spices, nuts and candied peel in a large mixing bowl, set aside (photos 1 & 2).

In a large pot or Dutch Oven add the sugar and honey on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is slightly bubbling (photos 3 & 4).

Step by step photos showing how to prepare panforte

Turn the heat down low and add the flour and nut mixture to the honey, stir it quickly until it is thoroughly combined. It will be very sticky so a silicone spatula works best for this (photos 5 & 6).

Once combined, spoon the mixture into the cake pan and smooth it out as you best you can (photo 7).

Step by step photos showing panforte before and after baking

Put in the oven and bake the panforte for 35 minutes, remove and allow to cool completely (photo 8).

Once cooled remove from the cake pan and parchment paper and dust heavily with powdered sugar. Slice and serve or store for later.

A close up of a cut slice on panforte showing all the nuts and fruit inside

Top tips and recipe FAQs

  • Line your cake pan first – traditionally panforte is made using rice paper but I find that baking parchment works just as well just make sure you line it all the way up the sides so it’s easy to remove. If you use rice paper you don’t need to remove it as it’s edible.
  • Work fast – when you add the dry ingredients to the honey mixture you need to stir to combine everything and place it in the cake pan relatively fast because as the honey cools it will start to harden making it much harder to work with.
  • Use a silicone spatula – this makes it so much easier to stir the sticky panforte mixture because the silicone spatula is non-stick.
  • Let it cool – let the panforte cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar or it’ll just dissolve. You also want it to be completely cooled before slicing.
  • Gift it – wrap your Panforte di Siena in wax paper with a pretty ribbon and gift it to your family and friends for Christmas.
What’s the best nuts to use?

You can use any nuts you like to make panforte. I like to use blanched almonds and hazelnuts and I sometimes add in unsalted pistachios which are delicious too.

How long does it last?

Panforte lasts for quite a long time making it great for gifting. Wrap in plastic wrap and store it in a cookie tin or container for up to 3 weeks.

Can I freeze it?

Yes, it freezes really well. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil or in a container and freeze. Let it thaw completely before serving.

More Italian Christmas desserts

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Panforte

Panforte – a Tuscan Christmas cake made with candied fruit, nuts, festive spices and dusted with powdered sugar. This dense and chewy fruitcake is such a delicious Christmas treat and perfecting for gifting!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 15 servings
Calories 300kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Italian 00 or all-purpose flour (140g)
  • 1 cup sugar (200g)
  • 3 cups mixed nuts we used almonds and hazelnuts (300g)
  • 1 heaped cup candied mixed peel (200g)
  • ½ cup runny honey (150g)
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg

For serving

  • powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C).
  • Line a 7-8 inch cake pan with parchment paper making sure you line both the bottom and the sides. To help the baking parchment stick to the cake pan you can rub a little butter or spray a little oil on the cake pan first.
  • Mix the flour, spices, nuts and candied peel in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
  • In a large pot or Dutch Oven add the sugar and honey on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is slightly bubbling.
  • Turn the heat down low and add the flour and nut mixture to the honey, stir it quickly until it is thoroughly combined. It will be very sticky so a silicone spatula works best for this.
  • Once combined, spoon the mixture into the cake pan and smooth it out as you best you can.
  • Put in the oven and bake the panforte for 35 minutes, remove and allow to cool completely.
  • Once cooled remove from the cake pan and parchment paper and dust heavily with powdered sugar.
  • Slice and serve or store for later.

Notes

  • Line your cake pan first – traditionally panforte is made using rice paper but I find that baking parchment works just as well just make sure you line it all the way up the sides so it’s easy to remove. If you use rice paper you don’t need to remove it as it’s edible.
  • Work fast – when you add the dry ingredients to the honey mixture you need to stir to combine everything and place it in the cake pan relatively fast because as the honey cools it will start to harden making it much harder to work with.
  • Use a silicone spatula – this makes it so much easier to stir the sticky panforte mixture because the silicone spatula is non-stick.
  • Let it cool – let the panforte cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar or it’ll just dissolve. You also want it to be completely cooled before slicing.
  • Gift it – wrap your Panforte di Siena in wax paper with a pretty ribbon and gift it to your family and friends for Christmas.
  • Storage – this keeps well in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 weeks or can be frozen. If freezing thaw completely before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 184mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 2mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We’d love you see what you’re getting up to in the kitchen!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    December 22, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks Emily. I added 2 tabs cocoa powder. It turned out beautifully and tastes amazing !

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    December 19, 2020 at 3:34 am

    Hi Emily. This looks delicious. I think I made one similar years ago. I’ve seen some recipes with cocoa or chocolate. What do you think? Could I add cocoa to this recipe?

    • Reply
      Inside the rustic kitchen
      December 19, 2020 at 9:35 am

      Hi Jennifer, sure, you could replace some of the flour with cocoa powder and even add in some chopped up chocolate with the nuts or add in melted chocolate with the honey. Let me know how it goes!

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