Baked Good / Dessert

Pan Forte, A Traditional Italian “Dessert”

Pan Forte

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is permission to make Pan Forte, a traditional Italian (dessert.) Roughly translated it means “Strong Bread,” a reference to its dense texture and combination of spicy flavors.  I discovered it at Sophia’s, a unique bakery café in Portland Maine founded by Stephen Lanzalotta (serious painter and artisan baker.)  Sadly Sophia’s closed a couple of years ago, but you can get Stephen’s Sicilian Slab pizza and other goodies at Miccuci’s on India Street.  The pizza and bread aren’t gluten-free, but there is enough other specialty food at this neighborhood Italian market to satisfy everyone in the group!

I’m gonna risk it and keep going:

  1. Check out Stephen’s terrific abstract paintings at:
  2. Pan Forte is something I make as a gift for friends including excellent restauranteurs, Cheryl and Norine, founders of Café Always & Aurora Provisions, who now operate El Rayo; Cheryl could make it herself, but seems to like mine – the ultimate compliment!

Back to cake: this recipe uses candied citrus peel, which one can make, but I suggest you purchase.  (Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be!)  I love the diverse range of flavors, which combine to make a satisfying, unique, and special holiday treat.  If the candied Citron, Orange, and Lemon peel screams “fruitcake” too loudly, substitute 1-3 of your favorite dried fruits (apricots, figs, raisins, prunes, pears, pineapple….)

Holiday Pan Forte

Click Here To Print Recipe


½ Cup honey

1/3 Cup sugar (2.5 oz.)

½ t. almond extract (optional)

1 ½ Cups toasted sliced or chopped almonds (8 oz.)

2/3 Cup toasted chopped hazelnuts (skins removed (5 oz.),

¾ Cup (4 oz.)  Diced, candied Citron Peel

¾ Cup (4 oz.)  Diced, candied Lemon Peel

¾ Cup (4 oz.)  Diced, candied Orange Peel

1 ½ Cups other dried fruit – chopped (I used raisins and prunes last night.) (8 oz.)

1 Teaspoon fresh orange zest

1 Teaspoon fresh lemon zest

2/3 Cup Chestnut Flour (or GF Flour Mix) (3.5 oz.)

¼ cup good quality unsweetened cocoa (1 oz.)

1 ½ Teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ – 1 Teaspoon of finely ground pepper (fresh is best!)

½ Teaspoon ground allspice

½ Teaspoon salt

¼ Teaspoon baking powder

1/8 Teaspoon each of ground ginger, cloves, and cardamom

Powdered sugar for dusting the finished cake.


Oven: 325 F.  9” round Spring Form pan, greased and lined with parchment paper – also grease the parchment.

  1. Combine the honey and sugar in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a gently boil until the sugar is melted and the temperature reads 230F on a candy thermometer (“softball stage”).  Remove from heat – cool while you mix the other ingredients.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, spices, and baking powder in a small bowl.
  3. Combine the nuts, fruit, and zest in a large sturdy mixing bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the fruit and nuts, stirring to coat.
  5. Stir the almond extract into the warm honey mixture and pour over the fruit/nuts. Blending it will require elbow grease and a little patience, but the workout will earn you an extra slice!
  6. Spoon the (dense, heavy) batter into the prepared pan and firmly pat down with damp or buttered fingers.
  7. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan, inverting the cake on to a flat plate.  Dust with powdered sugar when cool.

This is delicious for breakfast with a cup of strong coffee, for dessert at lunch or dinner.  It can also be served sliced with cheese, fresh fruit and a glass of Port. Pan Forte can last wrapped in plastic for a couple of weeks, but we find it’s usually gone in a few days.

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6 thoughts on “Pan Forte, A Traditional Italian “Dessert”

  1. I made your oatmeal chocolate chip and they are delicious. Now I can add pan forte to my list of vegan baked goods. Thank you GlutenFreeGus!!

  2. Yum! I love pan forte and it would never occur to me to make it — but what a great idea. I do want to candy my own citrus peel one of these days. My great-grandmother apparently used to do it and I’m sure people like her hated the idea of wasting any part of a precious imported fruit. Which appeals to me too actually! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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