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Fruitcake from Tuscany

Panforte di Toscana


Panforte is probably the most revered cake at Nannini's in Siena. You can tell by just looking at it that it is a chewy, dense, fruitcake, chock full of spices, fruit and nuts. Because of all the spices, panforte had a long shelf life and was even carried into battle as sustenance for hungry soldiers. Traditionally edible rice paper lines the baking pan, but it is not critical if you cannot find rice paper. Wrapped in beautiful Florentine papers, often with historic scenes on them, this bread-cake makes a wonderful gift.


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 unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon mace

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

1 drop cinnamon oil

Rice paper (Optional)

Confectioners' sugar


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

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 5 minutes. 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.

Combine the sugar and honey in a small saucepan; bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until the mixture registers 248ºF on a candy thermometer or a small amount dropped into cold water forms a ball when squeezed. Add the cinnamon oil and then pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and work quickly to mix everything well. The mixture will be stiff and sticky and hard to mix. I use a soupspoon to help gather up the ingredients.

Scoop and spread the mixture into the prepared cake pan. The mixture should be no more than 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick in the pan. Keep a bowl of water handy and wet your hands to help you pat the mixture into the pan.

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. If you used parchment paper on the bottom of the cake, remove it and discard. Carefully turn the cake right side up.

If you used rice paper, do not remove it. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes then turn it right side up.

Allow the cake to cool completely, then dust it liberally with confectioners' sugar. Serve cut into thin wedges.

Note: Cake decorating supply stores often have unique looking wrapping papers with Florentine and Renaissance designs that are perfect for wrapping panforte to give as a gift.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.


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