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Panforte Nero

From the book Pure Dessert by
Serves 12 to 16


I love the dense, sweet, chewy, dried-fruit-and-nut confection called panforte. It’s a splendid rich partner for coffee, dessert wines, or spirits, but it is also an inspired addition to a cheese platter. My first panforte was made in California by Mendocino food celebrity Margaret Fox, when we were both in our 20s and about to launch our respective businesses (my chocolate dessert shop, her restaurant). Margaret’s panforte rivaled (topped!) the original specialty from Siena. By the time we were in our 30s, I was buying oodles of panforte “di Mendocino” for my Cocolat shops. I finally visited Siena a few years ago, and fell hard for the “other” panforte, the dark, spicy, medieval rendition called panpepato (“pepper bread”) or panforte nero (“black strong bread”). It’s easy to make, is filled with tasty, healthy ingredients, and keeps forever.


1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and loose skins rubbed off
¾ cup whole unblanched almonds, toasted
cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. natural (nonalkalized) cocoa powder
tsp. slightly crushed fennel seeds
~ Slightly rounded ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
~ Slightly rounded ⅛ tsp. ground cloves
~ Slightly rounded ¼ tsp. finely ground white pepper
~ Slightly rounded ¼ tsp. ground ginger
~ Slightly rounded ¼ tsp. finely crushed coriander seeds
~ Slightly rounded ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
~ Grated zest of 1 orange, preferably from an organic or unsprayed fruit
8 oz. dried Mission or other figs (see Note), tough stems cut off and sliced about ¼-inch thick
cup honey
cup sugar
~ Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
~ An 8-inch cake round pan


  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease the pan or spray it with vegetable-oil spray. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment and the sides with a 2-inch band of parchment. Grease the parchment, bottom and sides, liberally.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the hazelnuts, almonds, flour, cocoa, spices, orange zest, and figs.
  3. In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a full rolling boil. Boil for 15 seconds. Off the heat, pour in the dry ingredients and mix well, working quickly, before the syrup cools.
  4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until the batter bubbles in the center as well as the edges, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the panforte in the pan on a rack.
  5. Invert the panforte onto a plate and remove the pan. Peel off the parchment and turn the panforte right side up. If desired, dust the top with powdered sugar. Serve in thick slices.
  6. Panforte keeps for months, well wrapped, at room temperature.


Good-quality figs are available in the bulk food sections of food groceries and in gourmet markets; those packaged by commercial dried fruit companies are generally not as good.

This content is from the book Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich.

There are 36 comments on this item
Add a comment
Average Rating 4
13% recommend this recipe
1. by Cynthya on Dec 16, 2008 at 12:01 PM PST

I’ve never tried Panforte before, but it looks really good. Of course I’d eat anything with nuts in it. :) I was surprised to see the crushed fennel seeds in a dessert. It does look easy to make.

2. by LOVESTOBAKEJUSTLAZY on Dec 16, 2008 at 12:06 PM PST

never heard of this, and never saw fennel in desert- thanks for the recipe

3. by dgregory1022 on Dec 16, 2008 at 12:18 PM PST

looks like a cake version of biscotti, which is my favorite

4. by weth on Dec 16, 2008 at 12:35 PM PST

I should try this version - a friend makes something similar, but it uses dates instead of figs. The spicing looks so aromatic!

5. by cdziuba on Dec 16, 2008 at 1:30 PM PST

I’ve never heard of this, nor seen it on any Italian menu. Very interesting recipe. I like a good, dense cake/cookie.

6. by shandon on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:19 PM PST

This looks great - I think some crystallized ginger would be a flavorful addition.

7. by rangrace on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:43 PM PST

Would definitely like something like this with the figs and almonds ... what a Grand recipe!

8. by macaronibirds on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:50 PM PST

Sounds very different!

9. by Terry C on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:54 PM PST

I have never heard of these. They sound good.

10. by Jane K on Dec 16, 2008 at 2:59 PM PST

Sounds delicious. I like anything with chocolate and nuts.

11. by drala625 on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:06 PM PST

These look delicious with a fancy name.

12. by faither on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:28 PM PST

This looks interesting. Don’t believe that I have ever tried this, anywhere.

13. by nicole309 on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:34 PM PST

I’ll be honest, I just want to win the book! I beg you pick me, pick me! I have tried every day.

14. by damons on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:35 PM PST

YUM, that looks good. And it looks easy to make too, which is reassuring.

15. by Eric on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:49 PM PST

I am getting great ideas for my holiday plates on this website. Each treat has been unique. And each looks delicious. I’ll be cooking up a storm this weekend!

16. by rtysons on Dec 16, 2008 at 3:54 PM PST

That is an interesting combination of spices for a dessert. I will certainly print up this recipe to make at some point, if not this year (running out of time!).

17. by kmg365 on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:04 PM PST

I’ve heard the term panforte, but never really knew what it was. Is it a cousin of figgy pudding? :-)

18. by Shaymaa on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:20 PM PST

This looks yummy

19. by Xanthippe on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:34 PM PST

Love the rich variety of ingredients, seemingly cobbled together but in fact carefully chosen for what promises to be a stellar paneforte. Thanks to Alice Medrich (how I miss her Cocolat shops!)for this recipe.

20. by dusksunset on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:38 PM PST

This sounds like something that would make a worthy replacement for fruitcake, as it is nuttier and less fruity.

21. by Julie Terry on Dec 16, 2008 at 5:51 PM PST

This sounds just wonderful

22. by miriama59 on Dec 16, 2008 at 5:51 PM PST

This looks and sound so rich and good. I have never had anything like this before...

23. by lisalmg25 on Dec 16, 2008 at 6:03 PM PST
Rating: four

Sounds like the perfect nut flavored alternative to fruitcake! I would love to see more varieties of the Panforte recipe.

24. by hotmama on Dec 16, 2008 at 6:23 PM PST

This looks delish. I will give it a try!

25. by dolls123 on Dec 16, 2008 at 6:49 PM PST

Looks really good

26. by elight on Dec 16, 2008 at 7:51 PM PST

Mmm! I’ve never tried Panforte, but this looks like a great recipe.

27. by Tammy Marshall on Dec 16, 2008 at 10:12 PM PST

I’ve never tried or heard of this before. Not sure how I feel about fennel seeds in my dessert either.

28. by dddiva on Dec 17, 2008 at 12:57 AM PST

I have not tried this before, but figs and hazlenuts? Yeah, I am going to be trying it for sure. Thanks for another great find.

29. by Betty C on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:14 AM PST

I’ve never tried this but my first thought is to leave out the fennel. Would it make a big difference in the taste? Otherwise it sounds great.

30. by intime on Dec 17, 2008 at 2:41 AM PST

looks good

31. by Darlene936 on Dec 17, 2008 at 5:03 AM PST

Now this beats fruit cake anytime.

32. by pscheel on Dec 17, 2008 at 6:56 AM PST

Ooh, this looks so good. I love spicy cakes.

33. by nlaugust on Dec 17, 2008 at 9:21 AM PST

Aha, the mystery sweet I wonder about at Whole Foods this time every year. Very intense flavor, very dense texture. At once, sweet and savory. Now I know why.

34. by reneej100 on Dec 17, 2008 at 9:23 AM PST

I love Panforte. The type I usually eat has almonds and candied citrons though.

35. by laikarose on Dec 17, 2008 at 9:36 AM PST

This strikes me as the Italian take on a traditional English fruitcake. I would love to try aging it, a la fruitcake, in a soak of some traditionally Italian alcohol like grappa.

36. by ptreskovich on Dec 18, 2008 at 4:57 AM PST

I’ve never heard of this cake, but it sounds delicious

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