Spiced Fruit and Nut Cake
This is perhaps one of the oldest sweets in Italy, dating back through the centuries to the introduction of new spices from afar, via the naval port of Pisa. Panforte is sticky but irresistible, and is normally eaten in winter, perhaps with coffee and liqueurs after a meal. A small piece is sufficient to tell you about the complexity of the spices used at that time.
- 240g figs or pitted dates
- 50g honey
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper
- 250g candied fruit, such as cherries, citron, lemon and orange rind
- 50g blanched almonds
- 50g pine nuts
- 50g shelled hazelnuts, toasted
- 3-4 tbsp plain flour, sifted
- 50ml Vin Santo
- Icing sugar to dust
- Heat the oven to 150 C/Gas 2. Line a shallow 25cm round cake tin, or a 20cm square tin, with rice paper.
- Mince the figs or dates and put them in a pan with enough water just to cover. Add the honey, brown sugar and all the spices. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, then tip into a bowl. The mixture should be soft and sticky, but not wet.
- Add the candied fruit and nuts and mix well, then add the flour and Vin Santo and mix to a sticky mass. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Sprinkle generously with icing sugar and serve cut into thin wedges.