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Fruitcake From Siena

Panforte di Siena


One of the most famous cakes of Siena is its panforte, which menas "strong bread". It is chewy, dense, and perfumed with cinnamon and pepper. Sadly, this cake is rarely made in homes nowadays, and most panforte is commercially produced.


2/3 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup diced candied orange peel

1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel

1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa such as Droste

1/2 cup King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

Confectioners' sugar

Parchment paper


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8-inch cake pan, line it with parchment paper cut to fit, and butter the parchment paper.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF.

Coarsely chop the hazelnuts and almonds coarsely. Transfer them to a glass bowl and stir in the candied citrus peels, cocoa, flour, and spices; mix well. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and honey and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until a bit of the mixture forms a soft ball when dripped in cold water. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan; the cake will be no more than about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch. While still warm, run a butter knife along the inside edge of the pan, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Carefully peel off the parchment and let cool completely.

Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with confectioner's sugar. Serve cut in thin wedges.

This recipe is from Ciao Italia by Mary Ann Esposito.

Note: I find using a well-greased ceramic pie dish eliminates the need for parchment. This cake will keep for at least 2 weeks if well wrapped in foil.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1991.


  1. Mary Kemp's avatar

    Mary Kemp

    My family and I love this recipe for Panforte. It's always a special treat. The only change I have made to this otherwise perfect recipe is to stir the hot syrup into the dry ingredients. I have better success combining the ingredients that way. Grazie for this recipe!

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