Philip Johnson’s Panforte recipe

We are absolutely spoiled for Panforte in Italy, and this recipe of Philip Johnson’s is one of the best I have ever tasted. You’ll find it in his book Bistro. I’ll be making a big batch this weekend – some for us, and some to give to friends and family. Panforte makes a lovely gift.

Panforte originated in the Tuscan town of Siena, a UNESCO world heritage site, not far from Cortona. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Italy – talk to me about recommendations of places to see, things to do and restaurants to dine at!

Philip Johnson’s Panforte recipe

“Panforte looks exotic, and it is, but it’s not that hard to prepare and it makes a wonderful gift if you spend a little effort on the packaging. In this age of ready-made everything, a hand-made gift seems such a special thing.” – Philip Johnson


  • 150g hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and roughly chopped
  • 150g whole blanched almonds, roasted
  • 150g raisins
  • 150g mixed peel
  • 100g crystallized ginger, roughly chopped
  • 90g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground white pepper
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 125g honey
  • icing sugar (optional)

Makes 20-24 wedges


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line the base of a 24cm spring form tin with baking paper and grease the side.

Combine the nuts, raisins, mixed peel, ginger, flour, cocoa and spices in a large bowl.

Put the sugar and honey in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer and cook until the syrup reaches soft-ball stage – 116 degrees Celcius on a sugar thermometer or when a little syrup dropped into a glass of cold water forms a soft ball.

Fold the syrup into the dry ingredients, combining well. The mixture will be very tacky. Smooth the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes, or until set. Set aside to cool in the tin.

Turn the panforte out of the tin and wrap in baking paper, then aluminium foil. It will stay moist for at least a month. To serve, cut the panforte into thin wedges and dust with icing sugar.

Panforte di Siena (Christmas cake from Italy)

Panforte di Siena (Christmas cake from Italy)

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