Siena panforte

Panforte throws together two Italian words: pane (bread) +‎ forte (strong). This Christmas cake is certainly that. It’s delicious and rich. A very small slice goes very well with coffee or tea after dinner or a late afternoon tea. Best of all (for us) is that it is egg-free.

Siena panforte

Siena panforte

Sienna panforte

  • Servings: One cake, many small slices
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print


  • 3/4 cup of walnuts
  • 3/4 cup of almonds
  • 3/4 cup of finely chopped, candied citrus peel
  • 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa (use pure cocoa)
  • 1/4 cup of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 4-5 cloves
  • a pinch of ground coriander
  • 1/3 cup of runny honey
  • 1/2 cup of sugar


  1. Chop the almonds and walnuts then mix them together in a bowl with the candied peel.
  2. Grind the cloves into a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa and spices (a purist would sift them together first, but just make sure your cocoa has no lumps). Mix it all together well.
  4. Heat the honey and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir constantly. Keep heating and stirring  until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring while the mixture boils (you might have to turn the heat up). Then keep stirring until it reaches the soft ball stage: this is when a little drop in cold water will roll into a soft ball between your fingers.
  5. Immediately take the saucepan off the heat and pour the honey-sugar syrup into the dry ingredients. Mix well using a wooden spoon. It will be a sticky, difficult mess, but take the trouble to mix it all in well. You also need to do it fairly quickly while the the syrup is still warm.
  6. Turn the mixture into a lined and greased 20-cm cake tin. Spread it out evenly and press it into the tin, using the wooden spoon or your hands.
  7. Bake in a 150 degree C oven for 30-35 minutes.
  8. After it has cooked and cooled, dust the top and sides with icing sugar.


The original recipe suggested using just almonds (so 1.75 cups) and toasting them. We prefer the mixture of almonds and walnuts, and I have only toasted them once. You can toast nuts easily by dry frying them in a cast iron frying pan, tossing them constantly to avoid burning them.

Every time I make this, someone looks at the recipe and worries about the amount of nutmeg. There’s no need to worry. It is indeed a ‘strong’ cake and you never want more than a sliver in one sitting.

Chopping nuts: a good sharp knife and a large chopping board make short work of this. I have never bothered with a food processor for what is only a 10-15 minute task. The manual method also means you don;t risk making ground nuts by accident.

You can make ‘mini-cakes’  by using a muffin or cup cake tin. They make great little gifts.

Source: Adapted from a very old article from the local paper.

Siena panforte

Siena panforte


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s