Cake/ Chocolate/ Dessert/ Italian Recipes

Panforte with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Cherries

Panforte with hazelnuts and cherries
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Panforte is an Italian fruitcake/confection that is commonly made with fruits and nuts, and lots of spices. We love this chocolate version made with hazelnuts and dried cherries and of course, chocolate!

Panforte with hazelnuts and cherries

What is Panforte?

Panforte, pronounced pan-for-tay, is an Italian fruit cake that hails from the region of Siena, Italy where Florence and Pisa lie. This Italian fruit cake dates back to 1205 which gives this dessert quite a legacy. Made with honey, panforte was used as a tax to pay local monastaries on the 7th of February.

Honey was quite scarce in those days and hence it was a prized commodity. Soldiers often carried this confection with them as it traveled well. Meaning “strong bread”, you will see just how strong it is if you make this chewy cake.

I made this last year as it is a great substitute for a fruit cake. Fruit cake made with dried fruits is a favorite of mine and I wanted to give this Italian version a try.

Panforte with hazelnuts and chocolate

Feel free to slice this 9″ cake into 4 wedges for shipping. You could even make them smaller as just a thin sliver of this honey cake is usually enough to satisfy. This rich and chewy cake is made that way by boiling honey with brown sugar.

There are many versions of panforte so feel free to create your own family specialty. Often flavored with citrus and pepper this version is simply chocolate, hazelnuts, cherries and cinnamon. In Siena it is often made with 17 different ingredients as there are 17 districts in the region of Siena. This version is much simpler than that!

Don’t want cherries? Use figs, or apricots or dates or prunes! Well, you get the idea, right? Want this spicier? Add in nutmeg, pepper, cloves or ginger. This really is up to you. 

Chocolate Panforte

I’ve also read that panforte pans were often lined with communion wafers, which apparently makes this confection easier to remove from the pan. Not having access to communion wafers, I was not able to test this! However I hear rice paper makes a great substitution!

How long does panforte keep? Well, honestly I wasn’t able to test this either, because it disappeared quite fast in our home. However,  with honey as an ingredient, it could keep quite a long time just wrapped and stored on the counter. No need to even freeze.

Panforte with cherries and hazelnuts

Panforte can easily be made gluten free by subbing in gluten free flour and with no eggs, panforte is totally vegan! I’ve heard panforte referred to as an Italian Power Bar and that description is quite apt.

How do you make panforte?

Whatever nut you choose to use, I would first recommend toasting them for the most flavor.

Chop the chocolate fine so that it will easily melt as your cake bakes. Soak the fruit in brandy or rum or even coffee along with the chocolate.

Combine the flour with the spices of your choice.

Now mix the honey and brown sugar in a pot and place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes and then combine everything together and pour into your prepared pan. Dust with a combo of flour and cocoa before baking. After baking you can sprinkle with powdered sugar if you choose. I however, love the look of just cocoa.

This cake is easily enjoyed with coffee, espresso, or even port. It is easily transportable and makes a great gift. Plus it keeps a long time…if you let it!

Panforte with hazelnuts and chocolate

Things I Cook With:

I bake this cake in a spring form pan. Everyone should have a spring form pan so if you need a gift for a cook, this is a good idea. Personally, I would love a set like this.

As for pots…I’ve never told you that I’m an All Clad girl. In fact my mother gifted me her old set at least 20 years ago and they still look like new and conduct heat very well. I prefer a matte finish because I think a shiny finish is much harder to keep clean. There are many varieties of All Clad and though I don’t see the set I have, it is similar to these.

Panforte

To be frank, I hate sets of things and prefer to buy pots open stock.Owning three different size sauce pans is enough for me. I use the smallest one the least. My other pots like a Dutch oven and a pasta pot are not All Clad, but more on them in a different post. 

Cookware is a big investment but  my pots are worth every penny. They have been banged on many New Years Eve’s and still have flat bottoms!

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Panforte with hazelnuts and cherries

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Panforte with hazelnuts and cherries

Panforte with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Cherries

  • Author: Abbe
  • Prep Time: 25 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Total Time: 55 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 9" cake 1x
  • Category: Dessert/Confection
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This panforte fruit and nut cake hails from Italy. Feel free to play with your own spices and flavorings, but I love this cherry, chocolate and hazelnut version.


Scale

Ingredients

4 oz (3/4 c)  whole hazelnuts

Butter for Greasing pan

1/2 c dried cherries (I use Montmorency from Costco)

2 T brandy

3 oz (3/4 c)  high quality unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/4 oz (1/2 c)  high quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 c plus 1/2 T all purpose flour

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

2/3 c honey

2/3 c light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 t high quality cocoa powder


Instructions

Heat oven to 350. Spread hazelnuts on a baking pan. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Rub nuts in a clean kitchen towel to remove skins. Set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 300. Brush a 9″ spring form pan with soft butter. Fit with a circle of parchment paper, brush parchment with butter and set aside.

Combine cherries, hazelnuts, brandy, and chocolates in a medium bowl; set aside.

Sift 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl.

Combine honey and brown sugar in a saucepan. Stirring, bring sugar to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Combine with dried-fruit mixture, stirring until combined. Fold in flour; mix to combine. Pour into prepared pan.

With wet hands or a small metal spatula, press the mixture to form a level layer. Combine the remaining 1/2 tablespoon flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and cocoa. Sift over unbaked cake. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool. Gently brush off flour coating before serving.


Notes

This fruit cake does not require aging though I find its flavor improves if it does.

Keywords: panforte, panforte recipes, recipe for panforte, siena panforte

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  • Kelly | Foodtasia
    December 11, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Abbe, I’m so loving the chewy texture of this panforte! And chocolate, cherries, and hazelnuts is a magical combination. Such a lovely cake!

  • Healthy World Cuisine
    December 10, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Wow, you make it sound so easy. We enjoyed eating this in Italy but have not made a batch at home. Love your combination of cherries and hazelnuts.

  • John / Kitchen Riffs
    December 10, 2019 at 10:07 am

    I’ve never made panforte — always been one of those things we buy. Maybe because we only have it once or twice a year? Dunno, but yours looks terrific and we really should try this. Thanks!

  • Holly
    December 10, 2019 at 7:09 am

    Pinned to save for years to come. This is a new dessert for me. We have an English fruit cake every year (although this year we ordered one from a New York restaurant, we’ll see how it compares, and this panforte looks like a great addition to our holiday list of desserts.

  • Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    December 10, 2019 at 6:15 am

    Hi Abbe – I’ve never heard of panforte before. I’d love to give it a try.

  • Mimi
    December 10, 2019 at 5:58 am

    I’ve only made this once, and I made it to send it to my mother. I didn’t think about how she wasn’t familiar with such a thing – she was more familiar with fruitcakes and stolens. So she tried to eat it, thinking it was a fruitcake of some sort, and hated it because it was so “hard,” and ended up throwing the whole damn thing in the garbage. 😳😳😳😳😳 I guess I should forgive that experience and move on!!!

  • angiesrecipes
    December 10, 2019 at 1:55 am

    You have nailed it! This panforte looks incredible, Abbe. Wish I could have a bite 🙂