Siena Panforte – spread the festive cheer…

What brings smile to your face when you think Christmas ? For me its the Christmas cakes and bakes! And most of all the very festive fruit cake! As you travel around the world, the fruit cake varies slightly depending on the local ingredients. But the key ingredients remain the same, more or less – candied and/or dried fruits, nuts and spices. The cake can be optionally soaked in spirits and could be decorated. It can sometimes even be chocolate flavoured. And some could have yeast in them.

In UK, the traditional fruit cake is round in shape and is typically covered in marzipan and Christmas typical embellishments. Glace cherries and currants are mandatory. However in Scotland, the cake is devoid of cherries and use of almonds is a must. It is called Dundee cake there. In the USA, it is a typical pound cake  with fruits and nuts soaked in brandy. In France, its called  gateau aux fruits.  The German version of fruit cake is with yeast and is loaf shaped. Its called Stollen. In Bahamas the fruits and nuts are soaked in rum and after the cake is baked, it is again drenched with rum while still hot ! Really boozy isn’t it? Indian fruit cake typically uses Old Monk.  Italy has two versions of fruit cake. The Milanese version is called Panettone and typically uses yeast in the making of this fruit bread. I have shared the recipe of this delicious fruit bread in one of my earlier blogs Panettone – Italy’s festive bread. The second version is called Panforte from the region of Tuscany. It is this fruit cake that I am going to talk about in this blog.

Siena Panforte is a dense and chewy fruit cake from the city of Siena in Tuscany. The origins of this rich cake are in Turkey where the soldiers carried Panforte as it had an extremely good shelf life due to the use of honey. It is this durability that made the cake popular amongst the soldiers on their crusades. Panforte means strong bread due to the use of spices.  It was also called Panpepato or pepper bread due to the use of strong spices in it. I am sharing the recipe of Panforte with chocolate as it is extremely yummy. 


  1. Almonds 60 g
  2. Hazelnuts 30 g
  3. Dried Figs 30 g
  4. Candied Cherries 10-12
  5. Black Currants 12 g
  6. Honey 90 g
  7. Dark Chocolate 75 g
  8. Butter 35 g
  9. Caster Sugar 30 g
  10. Flour 85 g
  11. Cocoa powder 15 g
  12. Cinnamon powder 1/2 tsp
  13. Icing Sugar for dusting


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 °C and toast the hazelnuts and almonds in a tray for 12-15 min or till golden brown. Cool and then roughly chop them.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon powder, all the nuts and dried fruits together. Keep aside.
  3. In a sauce pan, melt butter, honey, caster sugar and chopped dark chocolate till completely melted. While it is still warm, fold in the flour mixture till just combined.
  4. Grease and line a 6-7“ round  baking tin with baking paper. With wet hands or spatula  pickup the batter and press into the tin. Smooth the top.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 °C for 8-10 min. Do not over-bake as the cake tends to become tough and chewy. 
  6. Cool the cake and drizzle icing sugar.

In the year 2013, Panforte received the Protected geographical indication(PGI). Panforte can last for almost 3-4 months and is typically served with coffee or dessert wine after dinner during the Christmas time. Give this cake a try and gift your near and dear ones.

Happy Holidays!