Is it a cake or confectionery? Well, this Chocolate Panforte is a bit of both. It’s a traditional Tuscan Christmas cake which combines dark chocolate, nuts, fruits and spices, held together with a sticky honey syrup, giving it its distinctive soft chewy texture.
I decided to make this delightful cake this Christmas season primarily for gifting. I don’t know about you, but I’m rapidly tiring of buying unnecessary ‘stuff’ for family at Christmas. Unless it’s something I know they’ll really appreciate, I’d rather spend time in the kitchen making something I know they’ll love.
Thanks to Sainsbury’s Magazine for this fab recipe. It was a cinch to make and it turned out better than I could have hoped. It’s deeply dark and chocolatey (the aroma is insane!), and it’s packed with lots of crunchy toasted nuts, chewy figs and citrus peel, with just a hint of spice. You can easily make it gluten-free if you choose to, and you can swap out the nuts and fruits to suit your own preferences. I won’t pretend that it isn’t on the expensive side to make, but then again it is just a once a year treat. It’s also incredibly rich, so a little goes a long way.
I’m absolutely rapt with the results of this iconic Italian cake (as was the recipient!) and I know you will be too. Merry Christmas!
- 100g (3.5 oz) blanched hazelnuts*
- 100g (3.5 oz) brazil nuts
- 100g (3.5 oz) blanched almonds*
- 75g (2.6 oz) unsalted butter, diced
- 100g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 75g (2.6 oz) plain flour (can be gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 175g (6.1 oz) dried figs, quartered
- 100g (3.5 oz) mixed peel
- Zest of 1 orange
- 50g (1.7 oz) light brown soft sugar
- 150g (5.2 oz) runny honey
- 100g 3.5 oz) maple syrup
- Icing sugar (confectioner's sugar), for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
- Spread all the nuts out in a large roasting tin and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes (watch that they don't burn). Reduce the temperature to 140°C (280°F).
- Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water; set aside to cool slightly while you make the cake.
- Place the flour, cocoa, spices, salt, figs, peel and orange zest in a bowl and stir. Add the toasted nuts. You may want to cut the brazil nuts in half; leave the other nuts whole.
- Place the sugar, butter, honey and maple syrup in a small pan and gently heat. Stir until the mixture has melted, the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil. Increase the heat and let the mixture boil for 7-8 minutes or until a sugar thermometer reaches 118°C (240°F) or the 'soft ball stage'. (Or drop 1 teaspoon of syrup into a glass of cold water; if the syrup becomes a soft ball it's ready.)
- Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit and nut mixture and stir in as quickly as possible; fold in the melted chocolate.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level it with an offset spatula. Bake for 50-55 minutes. The mixture will appear uncooked when you remove it from the oven, but it will set as it cools. The top of the panforte should look slightly bubbly.
- Leave to cool completely; remove from the tin and dust the top with icing sugar - you can rub the icing sugar into the cake or leave it dusted on top.
- To store, place the cake in wax paper in a covered tin and store in a cool, dry place. The cake will last for several months.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting