December 8th, 2011

slice of panforte

Panforte is usually described as the Italian fruitcake, but that would lead you to believe it sucks, which it most definitely does not.  Panforte is indeed a mix of fruit and nuts, but the similarity to weird American fruitcake ends there.

whole panforte

Panforte isn’t really a cake at all or a bread, as its name implies. It’s more like candy–a lovely piece of grown up christmas candy. Sliced very thin and eaten with a glass of red wine or a strong cup of coffee, it’s delicious.

fruit for panforte

The recipe is staggeringly simple and ridiculously adaptable. My mom has perfected it over many, many christmases (all failed attempts were also delicious).  Take whatever dried fruit and nuts strike your fancy and mix them up with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cocoa, black pepper and a bit of flour.

panforte montage

On the stove bring some sugar and a bit of honey to a boil and pour it over everything. Mixing is probably the most difficult part, but your bicepts will thank you for it.  At some point I ditched the spoon and just used my hands to get everything together. Then it goes in whatever round pan you’ve jammed parchment paper into and into the oven.


That’s it. Panforte keeps for weeks. Before you serve it, sprinkle powdered sugar mixed with some spices on top for a snowy christmas look. Small ones make lovely gifts. Or you can do like I do and cut a big one in quarters–makes it easier to keep a bit for yourself. Last year we had panforte with oranges as our pre-dessert (or maybe post-dessert dessert? I can’t remember, but I know there were multiple desserts and cookies and pies were in there somewhere).



(recipe provided by my lovely mother–thanks mom!)

note: I made a double batch, so the amounts you see in the pictures will be different than yours. Also, this recipe doubles easily :)

  • 1 lb mixed dried fruit (you have to have a lot of figs, but other than that most everything is fair game. I used black mission figs, calamata figs, apricots, dates, cherries, and candied orange peel.)
  • 1 lb mixed nuts (about 1/2 lb should be almonds and then, again, anything goes. I used almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspooon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Toast nuts at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Use a different pan for each kind of nut because they all toast at different rates. Check them often. When they are toasty throughout, they’re done!

2. Mix nuts and fruit together. Do not chop! Everything is kept whole.

3. In a bowl mix together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  Take 1 Tablespoon of the mix out and reserve for sprinkling on top.

4. Add flour, cocoa, and black pepper to spice mix.

5. Add flour/spice mixture to fruit/nut mixture. Mix well.

6. In a saucepan bring sugar and honey to a boil. Boil for one minute.

7. Pour over fruit and nuts. Mix well. All the flour must be hydrated–make sure there are no little floury bits at the bottom.

8. Put parchment in a round pan (a 9 or 10 in springform pan works really well, but anything will work) and butter well.

9. Press the panforte into the pan. It should be no more than 1 to 2  inches thick.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

11. Mix powdered sugar with the reserved spices. Sift over the top.

12. To eat the panforte slice into 1/4 inch (or thinner even!) slices. Enjoy!

slice of panforte


24 Responses to panforte

  1. Ginger says:

    I can’t tell you how much I love your first sentence on this one.

  2. Amanda says:

    Sometimes I feel like the only person in America who loves fruitcake, but homemade fruitcake can actually be quite delicious, and is _nothing_ like the junk sold in stores. Dense, full of figs and almonds, and brandy or whiskey, it is just a softer version of panforte. Trust me!

  3. Kristine says:

    This sounds wonderful! I am going to add it to my Christmas goody baskets this year!

  4. Brooke - in Oregon says:

    Oh this sounds so wonderful! I love a good homemade fruitcake and agree with Amanda, what I grew up with was full of brazilian nuts and dried fruit and is NOTHING like the store bought pile of yuck! :) I think I am going to have to try panforte this year.

  5. This is GORGEOUS!!! You just solved my Christmas gift for friends conundrum. I have just loved the blog lately, I feel like you are my personal voice of Christmas reason.

  6. […] have to make this. Nutty things says, "Eat me." Ta says, "Ten bucks, same as in town." […]

  7. laura ramey says:

    I loved Panforte in Italy..Do you have any idea how to make chocolate panforte?

    • meg says:

      I think there is just more cocoa in a chocolate one. I remember epicurious having a chocolate panforte recipe…

  8. Lisa says:

    Oh yum, I was eyeing panforte up today in the shops but $8 for a tiny one, perfect timing – am going to make some this weekend now.

  9. Susan says:

    That looks absolutely delicious! I’d have it with coffee!

  10. Ellen says:

    OMG, it was YOU who brought this to the party on Tuesday night. It was DELICIOUS. I actually ate several pieces and then walked around exclaiming the deliciousness of this figgy like thing (which apparently is not figgy at all). Def. trying this. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Marlena says:

    As someone who ate it, I can tell you that is was amazing. I keep thinking about it, too.

  12. molly says:

    oh, hello!! thank you!

    dang, i love this stuff. made some for the first time last year, and i almost didn’t let any leave the house. ate it for breakfast, nearly every day in december. didn’t make my list htis year, dangit, and now i’m all regret. who knew you could miss black fruit and nut goo, so?

    (it always sounds better in italian, doesn’t it?)

  13. Helen says:

    Made it! It’s terrific, Meg. You’re right about how easy it was. Though yours still tasted better ;)
    To note, the recipe up thereabove calls for coriander, not cardamom (though, since I was there for the making and the ensuing cardamom coffee, I assumed this was an error). Also, there isn’t an amount for the black pepper, so I just added a tsp. Thanks to you (and your mom) for sharing this!

  14. Sandi says:

    Fell in love with this on my honeymoon in Italy. Found it via the internet for special times. So happy I found this recipe.

  15. Gill says:

    The panforte looks realIy good, I may have a go.
    I am a British woman living in SW France. I love to cook with local products and here, there are masses of chestnut and walnut trees. Although there are also lots of fig trees, the French don’t seem to dry them as the Greeks and Spanish do, however, the local dried fruit is the prune and I wonder if I could make this with prunes.
    Can you tell me the difference between black mission figs and Kalamata figs please?
    It seems that Americans aren’t that keen on fruitcake, neither are younger Brits and I include myself, although I couldn’t be described as young. I don’t like that very dark fruit cake that looks as if it’s been in a tin for 5 years, but I do sometimes make Nigel Slater’s recipe for light fruit cake which I think is this one
    It’s really good, I tend to vary the fruit and nuts according to what I need to use up. cranberries look great in it and give it a sour kick so that it’s not too sweet.

  16. Audrey says:

    I just finished this and WOW – it’s so delicious! The spices and bursts of dried fruit make it so great. It took some real muscle to mix it all up but I well worth it. I live in Hawaii so I’m going to keep the fig ratio and add home dehydrated fruit from here like lychee, pineapple, star fruit, mango and papaya. Ill add some macadam nuts too. Thank you for such a great recipe.

  17. Anne Marie says:

    Looks and sounds delicious. My kind of Christmas candy.

  18. MaryAnn Brennan Mullenhour says:

    Heard about this recipe from your friend Paula Pescatello and she suggested I get it from you, so thanks. I am going to try it this weekend. I have had panforte but never homemade since my Italian grandmother died about 20 years ago. Merry Christmas and thanks

  19. […] so the last one isn’t so exciting, but there was a lot of fruit and nuts in this house for a while. Panforte, […]

  20. Maggie says:

    To die for.I grew up in Italy and this is like the real thing. Complimenti. Buonissimo Bravissima! Thanks for sharing

  21. rebecca says:

    made this today to take to a gathering this evening. it turned out delicious! love it. thank you for sharing the recipe – and thanks to your mom for working it out! i wonder what a decent gluten-free option would be for the flour. looking forward to it with coffee tomorrow morning. merry christmas!