This Italian fruit cake recipe is faithful to its Tuscan roots! Panforte Margherita is a Tuscan Christmas dessert that dates back to the late middle ages and is popular during the holiday season in Italy.
This Italian Christmas dessert has many variations— including variations with chocolate! In the video recipe below, we demonstrate how to make Panforte Margherita— named after Queen Margherita in the late 1800’s for her visit to the Tuscan city of Siena. This variation does not have chocolate.
With whole almonds, candied orange and candied citron, this is probably the most popular Italian fruitcake. The name means ‘strong bread’ in Italian and comes from the warm spices that give this classic Italian dessert its kick. Those spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and even juniper— if you can find it. A super EASY dessert to help you make Christmas Italian!
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Learn how to make this Panforte recipe with our video, filmed in Italy:
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How to Make Panforte Italian Fruitcake
The final Panforte Fruit Cake will be short (1 inch or less). It will be dense and chewy! Knowing these characteristics will help you know your mixture is on the right track 🙂
Follow the recipe for making Panforte at the bottom of this page. Here are the highlights:
Toast the Almonds
To make Panforte, we start by toasting the almonds. Toast them in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant.
Chop the Candied Orange and Citron
Chop the candied orange and citron, if they aren’t already!
Citron is one of four original citrus fruits. It is an ancestor of the lemon and is still quite popular in Italian desserts. Unlike lemon, the citron fruit has very little juice. So, the rind is used (and candied) instead.
Sicily is a major producer of citron, so it’s not surprising that it’s a popular ingredient in desserts of that region!
Combine the nuts, flour, candied fruit and… spices! Spices in Panforte Italian Fruit Cake recipes usually include: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, powdered ginger, and juniper!
This dessert is rather sticky when finished. For this reason, it is traditionally prepared on edible rice paper which allows the fruit cake to be more easily served. You can simply line a springform pan with the edible rice paper.
To have a final Panforte of the right height, you’ll need to use a round cake pan of about 8 inches (20 cm) for this recipe. A spring form pan works best!
Butter and flour the sides of the pan to make removing this dense, chewy dessert easier 🙂
Make the Syrup!
The key to binding all of these dry fruits and nuts together is to make a lovely syrup!
In a saucepan, combine water or wine with honey and powdered sugar! We prefer to use a Tuscan Vin Santo wine. And yes, you read that right: powdered sugar! This is not a traditional syrup. Instead we want the thickener that powdered sugar (which includes corn starch) brings to the recipe.
Simply cook the syrup ingredients over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then, pour the hot syrup into the dry ingredients and everything mix thoroughly! Use a sturdy spoon or spatula because the mix stiffens quickly. Here’s how the mixture will look:
Bake the Panforte Fruit Cake
Spread the mixture into the cake pan evenly. Dip a spoon in water to prevent the mix from sticking to the spoon as you spread it in the pan.
Bake the cake in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 30 minutes.
How do you know when the Panforte is ready? The edges will begin to bubble slightly. Take the Panforte out of the oven at this point and use a wet spoon to push down those bubbly edges! Let it rest just a few minutes and then remove it from the cake pan while it is still warm. Cool before serving.
Top the cooled cake with powdered sugar!
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Panforte Italian Fruit Cake Recipe
- 1 springform pan 8-9 inches( 20 cm) in diameter
- 1 saucepan
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 11 oz almonds raw with skins
- 4 oz candied orange
- 4 oz candied citron
- 1 cup flour
- 5 oz honey
- 5 oz powdered sugar plus more for topping the Panforte!
- 2 tbsp water or sweet wine Vin Santo, for example
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp coriander
- ¼ tsp powdered ginger
- ¼ tsp juniper
- rice paper for the base
Prepare the Ingredients
- Place the almonds in one layer on a baking sheet. Toast the almonds in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 5-7 minutes. Toast just until fragrant. Then, set them aside to cool.11 oz almonds
- Chop the candied orange and citron.4 oz candied orange, 4 oz candied citron
Combine the Dry Ingredients
- Combine all of the following in a large mixing bowl: flour, cooled toasted almonds, the spices and the chopped candied orange and citron. Set the dry ingredients aside.1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp coriander, ¼ tsp powdered ginger, ¼ tsp juniper, 1 cup flour
Prepare the Cake Pan
- Line the bottom of a springform cake pan with edible rice paper. Butter and flour the sides of the cake pan. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).rice paper
Prepare the Syrup
- Combine the wine (or water), honey and powdered sugar in a small saucepan. Cook the ingredients over low heat until the powdered sugar is thoroughly dissolved. The syrup will bubble.5 oz honey, 5 oz powdered sugar, 2 tbsp water or sweet wine
Add the Syrup to the Dry Mix
- Immediately pour the hot syrup into the dry mixture and mix everything together quickly! Use a large stiff spoon or spatula, dipped in water. This will help prevent it sticking as you mix the ingredients.
Transfer and Bake!
- Transfer the sticky mixture to the springform pan. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or just until the edges become to bubble.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Using the back of wet spoon or spatula, press down the edges of the cake so that it is even with the rest. Let the cake cool a couple of minutes, then remove it still warm from the springform pan.
- Cool the cake. Then, top the cooled cake generously with powdered sugar. Buon appetito!