baking · food + drink

Italian Christmas Fruitcake – Panforte

Italian Christmas Fruitcake-3615I wanted to make a different type of fruitcake for Christmas this year after finding an old piece of paper with a recipe for a fruitcake. Mum had given me the recipe after clearing out her cookbook cupboard, she never made the fruitcake herself but thought I might like to try it… mum hoards recipes too! Called a Palestrina (an area in Italy) Christmas Cake, this fruitcake is packed with nuts, some dried fruit, dark chocolate and candied orange peel, all bound together with a honey and sugar syrup.  I guess you could call this a panforte, a renowned speciality fruitcake in Siena, Tuscany. It is best to buy a good quality candied orange peel for this recipe and if you have difficulty finding some, try making your own homemade candied orange peel… it’s not difficult.

After reading through the recipe I decided to add some Grand Mariner and macerate the raisins with the orange flavored liqueur instead of adding boiling water. In the throws of making the fruitcake I decided not to follow the method of making. Cooking the mixture after adding the flour did not seem like a good idea, the mixture was already very stiff and I did not want to risk burning it. Also, moulding the mixture by hand into small loaves was fiddly and sticky. I thought I would use very small loaf tins and press the mixture into these… again, sticky and fiddly.Italian Christmas Fruitcake-3621

The easiest way as with other panforte recipes is to press the whole mixture into a greased and lined shallow square or round baking tin. Once the fruitcake has been baked and cooled you can cut the fruitcake into 6 small rectangular loaves or 4 triangles (or leave whole)… when individually gift wrapped these make wonderful gifts. Cut the fruitcake into small thin slices or wedges when serving… perfect as an after dinner sweet or when served with a coffee. I will make this cake again and next time around will add some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves or maybe even add a bit of chilli like David Lebovitz spicy panforte.  Seeing as it’s the festive season… add a touch of sparkle and dust the fruitcake with some edible glitter.

Italian Christmas Fruitcake – Panforte


  • 175g, raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier or orange juice
  • 200g runny honey
  • 175g caster sugar
  • zest of half an orange
  • zest of one small lemon
  • 175g hazelnuts, skinned
  • 175g almonds, skinned
  • 175g walnut halves
  • 110g pine nuts
  • 50g homemade candied orange peel or good quality shop bought, cut into small pieces
  • 75g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), very finely chopped
  • 125g all purpose flour

for dusting the cake

  • icing sugar
  • edible glitter (optional)

You will need a 7inch square or 8inch round shallow baking tin, grease the bottom and sides with some unsalted butter and line the base with non-stick backing parchment.

How to make: Mix the raisins with the Grand Marnier or orange juice and leave to macerate for about 3 hours, stirring now and then.

Preheat the oven to 350°C/180°F/160°C Fan/Gas 4. Roast the hazelnuts and almonds in separate (do not grease) baking trays until pale golden, this may take about 15 minutes. Afterwards decrease the oven temperature to 325°C/160°F/140°C Fan/Gas 3.

Add the honey, caster sugar, orange and lemon zest into a medium heavy based saucepan and over low heat dissolve the sugar while stirring. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the almonds, gently boil and continue stirring for about 4 minutes. Next add the hazelnuts and walnuts and stir for another minute. Remove from heat and add the pine nuts, candied orange peel and dark chocolate. Mix everything together. Sieve in the flour in 3 parts and mix thoroughly, do this quite quickly as the cake mixture becomes very stiff

Spread the mixture quickly and evenly into the prepared cake pan, pressing the cake mixture down with the back of a spoon and smoothing over the top. Bake fruitcake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave fruitcake to cool in the tin. Remove the fruitcake from the tin and wrap in non stick baking parchment, cling film and leave for a couple of days to mature before serving. Dredge thickly with icing sugar before serving and dust over some edible glitter, if using. Cut into thin slices or wedges when serving. Store fruitcake tightly wrapped in an airtight container in a cool place.

9 thoughts on “Italian Christmas Fruitcake – Panforte

  1. It is raining fruit cakes. And obviously so. I posted a fruit cake – more of the regular one on my blog.

    Your take on the Italian version looks so interesting. Maybe next year I would love to try the panforte and will come here for the recipe.


    1. Yes it’s fruitcake season, I love baking fruitcakes and thought I would try something a little different this year. As with most fruitcakes… a little slice is just enough. 🙂


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