traditional Christmas cakes, panforte and panpepato

Traditional Italian Christmas Cakes: Panforte and Panpepato

Christmas is still the best moment to spend time with family, to eat the traditional recipes and, above all, the traditional Christmas cakes!


The "Panforte di Siena" is a traditional Italian dessert hailing from the popular Tuscan city. In 2013 it obtained the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

The origin of this cake is a mix of history and legends that the inhabitants of Siena continue to pass down from generation to generation. The oldest sources mentioning this dessert date back the beginning of the 11th century.

Originally, this cake was called Panpepato and it was considered a noble food because it contains pepper, a rare and expensive spice that sometimes was used in trades instead of money.
Panpepato ingredients  were: wheat flour, honey, spices, dried figs, jam, pine nuts and, of course, pepper.
It is also said to have played a key role in the legendary 1260 battle of Montaperti. The Florentine soldiers, tired from the journey, usually ate food poor in calories, whereas the Sienese ones had in their pockets these special cakes that gave them the strength and the energy necessary to win the battle.

The first time the word “panforte” appears in literature isin 1813, in a letter written by Ugo Foscolo, a famous Italian poet: but at that time Panpepato was already produced without pepper and softened by candied fruit.

The white panforte is the latest version of this delicious sweet, created in 1887 when Queen Margherita visited Siena: hence its name Panforte Margherita. 
This special Panforte was made with candied and covered with icing sugar. 

The original traditional panforte recipe is still a secret kept by the ancient Sienese pastry shops, where you can buy this delicious Italian fruit cake and enjoy its original taste, preserved for centuries.
Nowadays panforte and panpepato are eaten especially during Christmas holidays, but they are an excellent dessert for any special meal throughout the whole year.

Curious to know more about the places where panpepato e panforte recipes were born? We suggest you to read our focus on Siena and its beauties. You will love it!

Cover Image: Panforte,  by Jules used underCC BY 2.0