When I first married my Foreign Kiwi Husband (wow, almost 9 years ago), I knew I would be taking on some new Holidays traditions as well as sharing my own! For instance, when we have Christmas in New Zealand, it is Summer. There is a Christmas BBQ with plenty of bloody Mary’s, Ginger beer, Pavlova (which is naturally gluten free, yay!), zesty salads, lamb, and all kinds of fruity chocolate Christmas Cake that taste like candy, or lollies (the Kiwi name for candy).
It’s awesome! Growing up in Texas, the only Christmas cake I knew of was in the form of Chocolate Bundt Cake, or Oreo dirt pie …cake? Ya, those were all new to The Kiwi too. None of these cakes were paleo, or vegan, or even some what “healthy.” That is until I (I mean we) created our own traditions. A melting pot of traditions you might say. Ya, that’s our Crazy Cotter Household.
I know what you are thinking… “Um, Lindsay, how is an Italian Style Chocolate Christmas Cake a new holiday tradition?” I’m not Italian. The Kiwi is obviously not Italian. But here’s the thing; our tradition is about trying NEW things and recipes. So whenever anyone shares a new holiday baking recipe with me, cake or pie, I make it (with a gluten free healthy twist). Some have TOTALLY bombed. Um, like trying to make a paleo pumpkin bundt cake (ugh, don’t even ask about that), but the majority have been AWESOME!
For example, the past two years I’ve had a dear Italian friend, who’s like a mom to me, has shared her family recipes with me. She often asks me how to we can make these recipes with better ingredients or gluten free. Hence the grain free tea cake. I’ve also gone through our family cookbook to find new recipes. Remember that hot fruit bake? Yes, that one is EPIC and I made that last year for us, too! But paleo and vegan friendly. You see where I’m going with this, right? It’s a new tradition with a NEW Christmas Cake or holiday bake. Ohhh I rhymed!
As you can see, this year is no different. I am “revamping” a fruit cake. But not your grandma’s fruit cake or Christmas cake.
Nope, it’s PANFORTE, a dark chocolate Christmas cake! The name alone is just way sexier, right?
What is Panforte (besides a Chocolate Christmas Cake)?
Panforte is a festive Italian fruit cake with a toffee/candy like texture, rich dark chocolate, nuts, and fruit. You can play around with different types of fruit and nuts as long as you keep the measurements the same. For instance, instead of hazelnuts, I used macadamia nuts and almonds. I also used dried cherries and figs. OH MY!
The key to making this chocolate Christmas cake healthier is by using different sweeteners and fats.. My secret? Coconut oil, maple syrup, and dark chocolate baby! Cacao/Cocoa powder dusted on top and mixed right in!
How to make CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS CAKE (PANFORTE) 1 minute video
You can sprinkle your chocolate Christmas cake with powdered sugar or use a sugar free powdered sugar.
We all have own version of healthy, but healthier to means using REAL ingredients that are not processed (if possible).
Thanks to Better Body Foods for letting me use their awesomely organic Coconut oil and vanilla to make this chocolate Christmas cake. The recipe came together perfectly and in no time! What wonderful REAL food ingredients! Check them out for yourself below. Oh and I should note, I find most pf these products at my local grocer or at Walmart. Yup, SCORE!
KEY ingredients for a Paleo friendly and Vegan Chocolate Christmas Cake!:
- Coconut Oil (their liquid or Extra Virgin both work in this recipe). Be sure to use refined coconut oil so it doesn’t taste like coconut.
- Pure Vanilla
- Coconut Palm Sugar or other unrefined Sugar (date sugar, etc.)
Now all you have left to do is slice up and serve your chocolate Christmas cake!
I’m bringing this chocolate Christmas cake to our Christmas Eve Party, but it also makes for a cute gift idea. You know how I love those easy DIY gifts. Just put in a tin box, put a bow on it, then BAM. GIFT IS DONE! At least that’s how I think. Haha!
Enjoy the chocolate Christmas cake recipe! If you make it, I’d love for you to share photos of it with me on Instagram and/or Facebook!
This Chocolate Christmas Cake, also known as Panforte Italian Christmas Cake, is easy to make with maple syrup, nuts, dark chocolate, cocoa, spices, and dried fruit. A Christmas cake that’s both vegan and paleo friendly with a rich chewy toffee-like texture. Serve in small slices or box it as DIY holiday gift.
- 2 1/2 cups dried fruit, such as fig, dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins
- 1 1/4 cup raw whole almonds, toasted and then coarsely chopped.
- 1 cup macadamia nuts or hazelnut (halves), pre roasted or toasted (if you are using hazelnuts, remove the skin first)
- 4 tbsp tapioca flour (see notes) *updated*
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp refined coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 to 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (around 90–100 grams)
- 3/4 cup maple syrup (or agave if you are not vegan)
- 2/3 cup coconut palm sugar. (See notes for other options)
- Optional powdered sugar and cocoa or cacao powder to dust. For sugar free powdered sugar see notes.
Recipe UPDATED 12/1/2017
- Make sure all your fruit is chopped. If you are using figs or dried apricot, give them a pulse in the food processor to chop. If you are using smaller dried fruit, like raisins/cranberries, no need to chop.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Toast the almond for 5-7 minutes or until golden. Each oven will vary.
- Remove from oven. *Note* you can use macadamia nuts that are roasted and not toast them.
- Place toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. You can do the same for the macadamia nuts or chop by hand. You should still have large pieces of nuts once chopped.
- Now reduce your oven to 325F.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Grease or line a 8 to 9 inch cake pan (or spring form pan) with parchment paper. Grease the sides and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Combine fruit, nuts, flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
- In a small sauce pan combine your coconut oil, dark chocolate, and vanilla. Melt until combined on medium heat. Set aside. (See notes for alternative microwave instructions).
- Next Combine your maple syrup and coconut palm sugar in a small sauce pot. Mix on low until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil. You can use a candy thermometer to heat the sugar and maple syrup until the temperature reads 240 F (115ºC.) This usually takes 3 minutes or so. Once it reaches that temperature, remove from heat.
- Immediately pour the hot syrup and melted chocolate mix over the fruit and nut mixture and with a sturdy spoon, mix quickly until everything mixed and coated. You will need to do this fast so it does “candy” in the bowl.
- Press the batter into prepared caked tin. I would use a spatula that is a bit damp to press the batter into the tin. That way it doesn’t stick. (see notes for tips to hold batter)
- Bake until set (about 30- 33 minutes or so) . Be sure not to overcook or it will crumble.
- Remove from oven.
- Let it sit and cool for a few hours.
- Once cooled, dust with cocoa and/or powdered sugar.
- Slice thin or into small blocks, then keep wrapped or in a tight container. Should make 15-20 small slices or more if you cut into small 1-2 inch squares.
- To keep flavor Wrap tightly in parchment paper and store in tin. Keeps well for a while there.
- If you don’t have coconut palm sugar, then regular sugar will work but it is not paleo. I recommend using coconut palm sugar for that nutty tasty and lower glycemic index. Sugar free option, Swerve .
- For melting chocolate in the microwave, simply place coconut oil, dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Cooking in 30 second increments, stirring between, until melted.
- Notes for batter to set – If you find the batter is not thoroughly mixed with the hot syrup, once placed in the cake tin (pre baking), simply mix a a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and sugar again over high heat. Let it boil for 1 minute then pour on top of the cake tin in the areas that did not set. Then place in oven to bake.
- It’s best to use tapioca flour or rice flour. Coconut flour varies depending on the type of fruit you use.
- Category: dessert
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 190
- Sugar: 12.5g
- Fat: 12.5g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Carbohydrates: 17.4g
- Fiber: 2.4g
- Protein: 3g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: holiday desserts, gluten free, paleo, low carb, cake, chocolate
If you cut these into thin slices or little block/squares it makes more that 15. The pictures below are thick slices that would serve 3 each.
What’s your favorite type of Christmas Cake? What Holiday traditions do you make?
I’m nosy! Plus I’d love more recipes to try out next year.
Fun times ya’ll, fun times.
I haven’t done any other Christmas shopping. DO you think my nieces and nephews will accept just cake or trail mix? LOL! Worst aunt ever. I know. Online shopping here I come!
This Italian Style Chocolate Christmas Cake recipe is sponsored by my friends over at Better Body Foods! Thank you for allowing me to share their wonderful products and talk about this caring company.