panforte (Italian Christmas cake)

This delicious traditional Italian cake is very dense chewy and packed with dried fruits, nuts and spices, and can I just say, there are lot of ingredients but it’s really easy to make. This recipe is softer than the ones you buy which I prefer. It’s origins dates back to  the Italian crusaders who discovered it in Turkey. It kept them nourished during their sieges. Italians often cut it into pieces and wrap the morsels in parchment paper with ribbon and give the little parcels as gifts.


1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder to prepare the baking tin with
2/3 cup spelt flour (or normal if you prefer)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups mixed nuts, peeled and toasted such as pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios
2 3/4 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped, such as figs, apricots and currants or mixed peel( I used orange)
1/4 cup mild coconut oil or butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup or honey



Preheat oven to 150c or 300 F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8” springform pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil or use cake release spray (I always do) and dust pan with 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder and set aside.

Add the flour, 1 tbsp of the cocoa, the cinnamon, the ginger, the nutmeg, the cloves, and the pepper and salt to a large bowl. Stir thoroughly and then add the nuts and dried fruits and stir till combined.

Melt coconut oil or butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and maple syrup (or honey). Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally over medium heat.

Pour this mixture over dry ingredients and mix to combine and tip into the baking pan. Spread and press evenly into pan so batter is compact and dense. If needed, wet your hands lightly and use your hands to press the cake to flatten it.

Put in the oven and bake for about one hour or until edges start to rise slightly and it becomes matte on top.

Cool in pan and then peel off the parchment paper. Carve with a big sharp knife as it’s pretty solid.

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