This Italian dessert, Panforte (meaning “strong bread”) is a specialty from Siena, Italy in the Tuscany region. It’s a dense cake made with dried fruit, nuts and spices, and is served at Christmas time. Since apricots are used a lot in Tuscany, I used apricot preserves in place of honey that is used in the original recipe. It feels like the holidays when you’re eating this yummy dessert. It makes a festive presentation and would make a nice homemade gift too.
Preheat oven to 300F. In a dry pan, add the nuts and heat until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool, then chop nuts in half. Add the apricot preserves and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat until it starts to bubble. Then stir and remove from heat and set aside. Add the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cocoa powder to a large bowl and stir to combine. Then add the figs, apricots and orange zest and stir with a spoon or spatula. Add in the apricot and sugar mixture and stir well to combine. Add a little more of the apricot preserves if you need to loosen up the batter. It will be very sticky. Line a 8″ or 9″ round cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the bottom and sides with a little olive oil. Add the batter to the pan, smoothing out the top with the spatula. Bake for about 45 minutes or until batter is lightly bubbling. Remove from oven when done and allow the cake to thoroughly cool. Once cool, dust the top with the confectioner’s sugar and serve. Wrap the leftover cake in plastic wrap, or in parchment paper and place in a ziploc bag. The cake will last in the refrigerator for a few months.