Making Panforte

There are two kinds of panforte, “white” and “black.” White generally has more dried fruit in it, and is usually dusted with powdered sugar. The black version is generally spicier, nuttier and calls for cocoa powder (a novelty back when these cakes/candies first became popular). This panforte, quite frankly, is somewhere in between. But then why should I adhere to tradition when so few Italians do? Go to Italy and you’ll find hundreds of variations on the theme. For ideas on how to vary yours, refer to the recipe below. Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and roughly chopping the dried fruits and nuts:

Combine the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl:

Whisk them together and add to the fruit mixture:

Stir all that together.

Now combine the sugar, honey and butter in a small saucepan.

Heat that mixture to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, then pour it into the fruit and nut mixture.

Stir that together and scrape it into a prepared cake pan.

Bake it for 35-45 minutes until you can see the syrup bubbling on the top.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, six to eight hours. I should add that this preparation is not meant to be eaten right away. Ideally it should “cure” for at least a week in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator is fine for that if you don’t have a root cellar. As a caveat I’ll also say that I’m not sure panforte should be this high:

Most versions are flat like pancakes. The reason for that is that panforte, being a honey candy, flows. Not quickly mind you, but steadily. This is why most commercial versions come with a stripe of rice paper wrapped around the edge, to keep the stuff from spreading out all over. More curing and a low temperature will limit this. In fact after a few weeks in the fridge some of the sugars may well crystallize, which is a good thing in this case.

Howerver if you plan on serving this fresh for a fancy party, I recommend refrigeration — even freezing — if you want nice, sharp slices. Alternately you can use two cake pans for this and make the usual flat cakes!

16 thoughts on “Making Panforte”

  1. Looks great! I like the height and tan color, both are very appealing. Since it’s something that cures, is there ever liquor added?

    1. I’m sure someone, somewhere in Italy has probably snuck a little grappa into a panforte at one time or another, but I never came across any of those recipes. It makes sense though…whenever I think of fruitcake I certainly think of bourbon. But in general I don’t think alcohol is exactly traditional. Thanks for the great question!

      – Joe

  2. Please tell us your technique for chopping whole nuts to achieve mostly consistent pieces as shown in the pics. Sharp heavy knife or a chopper of some sort?

    1. Hi Richard!

      Great point. I myself just used my largest chef’s knife and give the nuts a very rough chop. Overall I just wanted the pieces cut in halves or thirds at the smallest. I think larger pieces work better, certainly in this presentation. Excellent question!

      – Joe

    1. It did…then I sent it to the University where the grad students never fail to devour stuff for me. I should have let this sit around and crystallize, but you know, when these sorts of things are available I just end up eating them. 😉

      – Joe

    1. It’s pretty addictive stuff, I have to say. Another one of those classics that’s surprises in its sheer goodness.

      – Joe

    1. Thanks Bev! I was happy with it, I must confess. I’d be curious to see what it’s like when it’s aged a while. I’ll bet it’s really good and really different. Maybe I’ll make another! 😉

      – Joe

  3. The recipe called for blanched almonds, which I thought was done to remove the peel, but I see unpeeled ones in the photos. I am probably just being dense, but did you blanch them and leave the peel on? Or did you just decide not to bother with it?

    1. Good point, Eric. You’re not being dense at all. Honestly blanched nuts are not critical here, since you’re right that blanching is primarily about loosening the skins. I had a mixture of blanched and unbalanced nuts that I used. There’s really not much use in the step. I did consider roasting them, which probably would have added some nice toasty flavor, but I chickened out.

      – Joe

  4. Hello Jo…I have made your White Panforte in small tins – wrapped them and gave them as Christmas Gifts to my friends – they were lovely. My little grand daughter like it too – hopefully it was sitting on the healthy side of sweet things…. Merry Christmas from New Zealand.

    1. Merry Christmas to you, Maureen! Thanks so much for the note…I’m glad it worked so well for you!


      – Joe

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