Christmas – Panforte

From the beautiful Tuscan hills and ancient walled city of Siena comes Panforte. Meaning ‘strong bread’ it was renowned for its keeping properties from medieval times, but these days it’s best known as a sort of Italian christmas cake. Theoretically one could keep it for months, but in most houses it never lasts that long.

Traditionally made with 17 ingredients to represent 17 districts within the city, these days variations abound. Once it was a spicy cake, dusted not with icing sugar but with black pepper. Now it is a dense and dark fruitcake or even, as here, made with chocolate as its centrepiece.

With access to summery figs and almonds, mine is not such a respectful cold-weather interpretation and I know any self-respecting Nona would scold me, but for now let’s keep it up to current trends. Made with fig, almond and dark chocolate, and with a satisfying kick of spice, this panforte will last months in your fridge. It is a wonderful Christmas gift to give to others and tends to disappear if left unattended too long.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Makes 16 pieces


  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 200g dried figs
  • 60g glacé ginger
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1¼ cup (310 ml) honey
  • 1 cup (120g) caster sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • icing mixture for dusting


Preheat oven to 160°C. Line the base and sides of a 23cm round springform cake tin with baking paper and set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, ground ginger and pepper into a large bowl and set aside.

Place the almonds in a dry frypan and heat them over low heat, toss them and moving them constantly until they brown on each side. Remove the stems from the figs then roughly chop the figs and ginger to the same size as the almonds.

Add the almonds, figs, ginger and pistachio to the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Place honey and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Stir from time to time until the sugar has dissolved. Roughly chop the chocolate into smallish pieces and add to the hot honey. Stir well to melt completely.

Add the chocolate mixture to the fruit and nuts and stir with a wooden spoon to combine everything well. It will be a very stiff mixture.

Press the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan before turning out.

Dust the cake heavily with sifted icing mixture and use a large, sharp and warmed knife to slice through the panforte as cleanly as you can. Wrap the pieces in clear cellophane if you want to make some pretty presents, or store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for at least a month this way (and much longer I expect) and many believe its flavour improves with time.


$12.45 for 16 pieces

20 thoughts on “Christmas – Panforte”

  1. I love panforte, and would like to try this recipe. Of the two panforte recipes I have tried, I prefer a very non-traditional ‘Aussie’ version made with macadamia nuts and white chocolate. It’s still dense and chewy. I plan to give them away as part of baked goods gift boxes – often cheaper than buying gifts.

  2. Hi,
    I was just wondering could I leave out the glace ginger as I really don’t like it very much??? I suppose I could change it to cherries?

  3. Did you use soft/moist dried figs or the rock hard ones? I’v had no success with panforte in the past, but you’ve inspired me to try again.

    1. I used the moist ones which were packaged up in 250g lots in my local Italian deli. Try a Middle eastern grocery store or a fruit and nut place or healthfood store for best results.

  4. Wow, this looks amazing. I’m rather skint this year but am handy in the kitchen so am looking to make food gifts for my family – this is going on my list – let’s hope it ends up looking as good!

    1. When I was on maternity leave with my three month old baby, I made a series of food hampers as I couldn’t afford presents during that Christmas. They went over a treat and I’ve made hampers every year since then. It’s a wonderful alternative to commercial gifts. This panforte really does look this good, I’m sure yours will be sensational. All the best x

  5. I’ve just taken my first panforte out of the oven, and will be making another in the next few days. Thanks for the inspiration! Sandra, I think it would be useful to state in the recipe that the cake will be soft in the middle when it is taken out of the oven. I searched some other recipes online to check that my panforte was indeed cooked after 30 mins – the best advice was that you should be able to touch it in the middle without it sticking to your finger.

    1. It’s best to use a standard gluten-free plain flour here. Rice flour would make it terribly hard and crumbly – it needs a thicker flour, so try one of the gluten free types.

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