Traditions occasionally need a little update, and while a radical change to a classic Christmas dinner might result in anarchy, who wouldn’t love a dense, nut- and fruit-laden dessert? And who, specifically, wouldn’t love panforte, an Italian spiced bread that closely resembles fruitcake? Originally from Sienna and found throughout Tuscany, panforte is rich, dark and chewy, with just the right amount of sugar and spice. Easy to make, it’s a welcome addition to the festive table.Use this recipe as guide, feeling free to adjust the dried fruits and nuts to those of your liking. I suggest buying nuts that are pre-toasted, for simplicity’s sake. Some recipes call for both black and red pepper, although this recipe calls for white pepper and a little cayenne. The pepper choices are yours to make. A cooking supply store like The Cookbook Co. Cooks will have everything you need. Makes 1 x 8” round cake.


Author Karen Ralph


  • Parchment or rice paper


  • 1/2 c. almonds
  • 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 3/4 c. pistachios
  • 1/2 c. soft dried figs
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries
  • 2 c. candied lemon and/or orange peel
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground white pepper
  • 1/8 t. cayenne
  • 1/2 t. coriander seeds ground
  • 1/2 t. cloves ground
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. runny honey
  • Icing sugar to serve


  • If you are toasting the nuts, pre-heat the oven to 400°F, pour the nuts onto a parchment-covered baking tray, toast for five minutes, remove from oven and allow them to cool slightly. Turn the oven down to 350°F.
  • Grease an 8” round tart or springform pan with a removable base and line the bottom with parchment or rice paper. Combine the toasted almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Place 1/3 of the nut mixture in a food processor and grind into small pieces. Coarsely chop the rest or crush them with a rolling pin. Roughly slice up the figs, cherries and candied peel. Using a large, heatproof bowl, combine the flour, cocoa and spices, whisk until thoroughly mixed, and then stir in the fruit and all of the nuts.
  • Put the white sugar and honey into a medium pan and gently heat until a pinch of the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Immediately pour the honey and sugar mixture into the other ingredients, stir to combine, and scrape the dough into the prepared pan, pressing it down with wet hands. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just firm, and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled down, remove it from the pan and lightly dust with icing sugar.
  • Keep your panforte wrapped in cheesecloth and wax paper in a cool, dry spot in an airtight container… or eat it all right away.