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Mon, 16 November, 2020

Panpepato means ‘peppered bread’ - here we are again in the quicksand territory of when is bread a cake: clearly the Italians contribute to the dispute. It is a weird and wonderful Christmas bake originating from Siena in central Italy, in the region of Tuscany.

Italian Christmas panpepato

What is panpepato?

Panpepato is a type of panforte, a classic Italian biscuit studded with dried fruit and nuts. Though in truth it should be described as fruit and nut mass studded with a little biscuit dough – to say it’s rich is an understatement.

It is very traditional in the province of Siena and used to be baked for Christmas in every family according to their own recipe. Perhaps that is the reason the recipes around are so wildly different: the amounts inconsistent, the chocolate content varied, the finishing touch sometimes chocolate, sometimes icing sugar.

I trawled through quite a few recipes, mostly Italian (though that is not necessarily a guarantee of success: I wouldn’t trust me to make the best pierogis!) and what emerged is below. Some recipes skip the chocolate from the ingredients of the cake and advise just to coat the baked confection in melted chocolate.

panpepato, a type of panforte from Siena

I liked the ones that included dark chocolate chunks in the mix which subsequently is melted and gelled together with hot honey. Plus some cocoa – after all it is supposed to be ‘peppered’, a dark and spicy thing.

The shape and texture differ too, wherever you look: sometimes panpepato is baked in a tin, thinly pressed and packed then cut into long fingers. Other authors instruct to shape loaves, flatter or fatter. The surface is bumpy, like in mine, if the proportion of dough to fruit and nuts is lower. When the honey and flour dough constitute a proper cake, only studded with fruit and nuts – it’s smoother. None of the ways is the only right one, none of them is wrong.

It is a delicious thing and makes a nice Christmas gift as it lasts forever.

Italian Christmas fruit and chocolate cake

How to make panpepato?

It could not be easier. Even the amounts are for you to decide to a certain extent: more fruit? more nuts? more chocolate or more cake dough – it will all impact on the outcome but successful nevertheless, unless you go widely off the mark.

Soaking the raisins is a must, in Vin Santo or any dessert wine (some recipes advise to use dry red wine so looks like anything goes). Toasting the nuts is also obligatory, to enhance the flavours and dry them a little.

Then the lovely melange is mixed in a bowl, while you warm up the honey with some raisin soaking liquor. The hot honey melts the chocolate and all the nuts, raisins, candied fruit and crushed peppercorns are added to the dark chocolate lava.

What follows is very messy but awfully satisfying: mixing in the flour with spices and cocoa powder, then shaping loaves with your hands.

panpepato, peppered bread

How long does panpepato bake?

It doesn’t bake long at all, about 20 minutes – and there’s nothing to look out for because the appearance of the bumpy black loaves doesn’t at all change.

panpepato di Siena

They need to cool completely before being showered with icing sugar – or coated with more chocolate if that should be the preference.

As I said, it keeps fantastically well so you can bake your panpepato weeks ahead to gift it to friends on Christmas Day.


Servings: makes 2 small loavesTime: 45 minutes
Rating: (2 reviews)


  • 75g (½ cup) raisins
  • 60ml (¼ cup) dessert wine
  • 75g (½ cup) hazelnuts
  • 75g (½ cup) whole almonds
  • 75g(½ cup) other mixed nuts: walnuts, pecan, pistachio, pine nuts
  • 75g (½ cup) dark chocolate chips
  • 75g (½ cup) candied citron
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 150g (½ cup) honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 100g (1 scant cup) flour type 00
  • 40g (13 cup) cocoa powder


1. Place the raisins in a small bowl. Warm up the wine to almost boiling and pour it over the raisins. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.

3. Place the hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts on a baking tray. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, until fragrant, leave the oven on. Turn them out onto a chopping board and chop very roughly leaving some whole.

chopped nuts

4. Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Chop the candied citron roughly. Crush the pink peppercorns in a pestle and mortar.

5. Warm up the honey with two tablespoons of the raisin soaking liquid. When hot, pour it over the chocolate and stir to melt.

6. Add the drained raisins, chopped nuts, citron, peppercorns and all the other spices, flour and cocoa powder to the chocolate. Mix with a wooden spoon until it’s homogeneous.

how to make panpepato dough

7. Line the baking tray used for toasting the nuts with a sheet of parchment. With wet hands shape the dough into two small round loaves, place them on the parchment and slightly flatten.

panpepato loaves

8. Bake for 20 minutes; the panpetato won’t change much in appearance. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into small wedges and serving.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Mary - thank you! So happy to hear that even the grand babies liked it!
2 years ago
Mary Hall-Smith
This is a fabulous recipe! Beautiful! Everyone can’t stop eating the panpepato! Even my grand babies…
2 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Sally - thank you for picking up on it, I've updated the recipe. Hope you enjoy your panpepato!
2 years ago
Sally Millington
Just tried this….but you left out a line adding the raisins in and I nerly didn’t add the . It is in the oven now and smell wonderful.
2 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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