Friday, December 01, 2006


This is another dish that I thought would be perfect for Anna's wonderful event - Festive Food Fair.

I'm always on the lookout for Panforte recipes in the hope of one day getting those elusive flavourings just right. A Donna Hay version proved most unsatisfying so I turned this time to Carol Field and her classic book The Italian Baker.

In case you're wondering what Panforte is, it's the traditional fruitcake of Siena. It's rich and dense with an intense spice blend flavouring the mixture. It's served in thin slices - chewy, nutty, fruity, spicy and sweet - it has it all.

panforte© by haalo

[Makes one 20cm/9 inch cake]

115 grams whole roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
115 grams blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
130 grams candied orange slices/peel, coarsely chopped
130 grams citron, very finely chopped
70 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground white pepper
150 grams sugar
260 grams honey
30 grams butter
icing sugar, for dusting

Take a 20cm/9inch springform pan - butter and flour and line with baking paper. Set aside until ready. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Place the chopped hazelnuts, almonds, orange peel and citron into a large bowl and stir well to get an even mix. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and spices - once again stirring well to ensure it's well distributed.

In a saucepan, place the sugar, honey and butter and heat over low flame. Stir constantly to ensure it doesn't stick to your pan. Using a candy thermometer - cook the mix until it reaches 242-248°F/120°C.

You've got to be quick for this next part as this syrup cools rapidly and turns the mix hard.

Pour the syrup as soon as it reaches the correct temperature into the dry ingredients - it can help to have a person helping you. Quickly stir the syrup through until well blended then pour into your prepared pan. Smooth the top off with a flat-metal spatula - if you find it's getting too hard, dip your spatula into boiling water to heat it up - you'll find that it will make getting a flat surface easier.

Panforte - oven ready©

Cook in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes. The panforte doesn't colour and even when it's cooked it will look soft and runny. Don't be tempted to overcook as you'll end up with something you won't be able to cut. The mix will harden as the cake cools - ideally it should have a flexible feel to it, similar to soft nougat.

Panforte© by haalo

Let the cake start to cool in the pan - when the centre feels solid, remove it from the pan and turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

When cold, dust heavily with icing sugar - it's needs to be a really thick coating.

Panforte© by haalo

To serve, it's best served sliced as thinly as possible, ideally with an espresso.

Panforte© by haalo

This version is certainly getting very close to the taste I'm after - if you can't make it to Siena for the real thing, I think this is a more than adequate substitute.


  1. One of my all time favourite cakes to make. I have a really good recipe if you would like to try mine.
    I make it in two sizes. I often present these on a small cakeboard and wrap in cellophone with a raffia bow.
    Very nice gift at this time of year.

  2. Haalo,

    I've seen panforte recipes in many books I've bought but never felt like making it.

    Now, with your text and beautiful photos, I've changed my mind - another good option to give my friends for Xmas!

  3. I've never heard of this type of cake, but your version looks delicious.

  4. Haalo,

    Lovely Panforte!

    I actually have Carol Field's The Italian Baker. Learnt a lot of tips from it, but haven't tried out any recipes. :)

  5. Thanks CB - I'd love your recipe, just send off an email!

    Hi Patricia - it is an excellent gift and you can make them in all sizes. They are cakes that keep really well.

    Thanks Kalyn - its the spices that make it - there are excellent real Italian made commercially available panforte to be had.

    Thanks WP - it's the first thing I've cooked from her book and there's probably a bit of tweaking to be had on the spice front, but texture wise I was very pleased. It's a lovely book to relive memories of Italy.

  6. Haalo, very first chance I get I'll email it to you.

  7. Haalo,

    The candied peel that you used, is it from Italy? I wonder if I can get it from the Essential Ingredients?


  8. Hi WP - most of the fruit is from Italy, except the Angelica it's from France. I got the whole mandarin, cedro and angelica from Essential Ingredient but for the other glace fruit there's a shop in Prahran market called The Sweet and Nut Shop that I go to - the fruit isn't pre-packaged and you buy as much or as little as you like. Hope that helps!

  9. Thanks Haalo. The info is very helpful!

  10. Hi Haalo,
    I have made a couple of siena cakes today, which reminded me that I owe you a recipe.
    For the life of me I can't seem to send from my general email. I'll see if my son can fix it when he comes home tonight.

  11. Thanks CB - I look forward to your email

  12. Hi all--just searching for panforte recipes and found your blog. This looks like the best one so far! Whomever was using the "whole mandarin, cedro and angelica," could you please send or post the recipe? I love using those types of ingredients!
    Thank you—

  13. Thankyou for this! I'll attempt this again. Last year i attempted to cook this and I failed miserably. I used to cook it every christmas when I was young and give it away as presents. It was so yummy i couldnt keep it in the house or we'd eat it all. Now 30 yrs later i cannot replicate it at all. But this recipe is very well written and easy to follow


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