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Overhead photo of gluten free chocolate Christmas cake cut into slices and dusted with sugar.

Gluten-Free Italian Christmas Cake (Panforte) Recipe

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  • Author: Lindsay Cotter
  • Total Time: 50 min
  • Yield: 16 slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Make this gluten-free Italian Christmas cake recipe (panforte) for a decadent holiday dessert that will transport your taste buds to Italy!


Units Scale
  • 2 1/2 cups dried fruit (figs, dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins)
  • 1 1/4 cup raw whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup halved macadamia nuts or skinless hazelnut, pre-roasted or toasted
  • 4 Tablespoons tapioca flour (see notes)
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon refined coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 ounces (90-100 grams) chopped dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  • 2/3 cup coconut palm sugar (see notes)
  • Optional: powdered sugar and cocoa or cacao powder to dust the cake


Recipe UPDATED 12/1/2017

  1. Make sure all the dried fruit is chopped. If using figs or dried apricot, give them a pulse in the food processor to chop. If using smaller dried fruit, like raisins/cranberries, no need to chop.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Toast the almonds for 5-7 minutes or until golden then remove from the oven.
  3. Place toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Do the same for the macadamia nuts or chop by hand (there will still be large pieces of nuts once chopped).
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.
  5. Grease or line a 8 to 9 inch cake pan (or springform pan) with parchment paper. Grease the sides and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dried fruit, nuts, tapioca flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon.
  7. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the coconut oil, vanilla, and dark chocolate and melt until combined. Set aside. (See notes for alternative microwave instructions).
  8. In a small sauce pot on low heat, combine the maple syrup and coconut palm sugar until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil. Use a candy thermometer to heat the sugar and maple syrup until the temperature reads 240 F (115ºC.) or about 3 minutes. Once it reaches temperature, remove from the heat.
  9. Immediately pour the hot syrup and melted chocolate over the fruit and nut mixture. With a sturdy spoon, mix very quickly until everything is combined and coated. 
  10. Press the batter into the prepared caked tin. Use a spatula that is a bit damp to press the batter into the tin (see notes).
  11. Bake about 30 to 33 minutes. Be sure not to overcook or it will crumble.
  12. Remove from the oven and let it sit to cool for a few hours. Once cooled, dust with cocoa and/or powdered sugar.
  13. Slice the cake into thin slices or small blocks (15-20 small slices or more if you cut into 1-2 inch squares). Store the cake wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight container for up to 7 days.


Substitute Tips – Use raw white sugar or a sugar substitute in place of coconut sugar, if desired. Coconut palm sugar will give it a nuttier tasty and lower glycemic index. Tapioca flour or rice flour works best to coat the nuts/fruit.

Prep Tips – For melting chocolate in the microwave, simply place the coconut oil and dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Cooking in 30 second increments, stirring between, until melted. If the batter is not thoroughly mixed with the hot syrup, once placed in the cake tin (pre-baked), simply mix a a few Tablespoons each of maple syrup and sugar 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 bake in the oven. 

  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 35 min
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: baked
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 190
  • Sugar: 12.5g
  • Sodium: 10.3 mg
  • Fat: 12.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 17.4g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg