I Cavallucci

Tuscan Honey Cookies


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

The Italian name of these little cookies literally translates as ‘little horses’, as they were once made for the riders and stablehands of the famous horse race, known as Palio, which is run in Siena twice a year. Over the years, the cookies gradually became so popular that they are now almost as well known, and certainly as typical, as the famous panforte di Siena, the hard, spicy, fruit-laden flat cake that also originates from the town. These cookies are wonderfully chewy and strongly flavoured with aniseed, and are traditionally eaten around Christmas time. They are especially delicious served with strong coffee.


  • 115 g/4 oz/ cup almonds
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 115 g/4 oz/½ cup acacia honey
  • 450 g/1 lb/4 cups plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 115 g/4 oz/½ cup crystallised/candied citrus fruits, finely chopped
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • a pinch each of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and ground coriander
  • 1.5 ml/¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda, or ammonium carbonate, if available
  • oil, for greasing


  1. Blanch the almonds by soaking them in hot water for about 1 minute, then removing the skins. Alternatively, use ready-blanched almonds.
  2. Lay the almonds out on a baking sheet and toast them under a hot grill or broiler, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden. Keep checking the almonds regularly as they burn easily. Chop the almonds coarsely.
  3. Put the sugar and honey into a large, heavy pan and melt them together very slowly over a low heat, stirring occasionally.

  4. When the mixture is hot enough to form a string as you lift up the spoon, very gradually mix in the flour, then the crystallised citrus fruits, fennel seeds, blanched almonds and spices. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda or ammonium carbonate.

  5. Flour a work surface of baking sheet well, then spread the cookie dough mixture out on the floured surface to a thickness of about 1cm/l2in, using a spatula dipped in water to help you spread it easily without sticking.

  6. Leave the cookie mixture to cool completely. Once it is nearly cool, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
  7. Cut the cold cookie dough into rectangles and lay them carefully on a well-oiled baking sheet. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, or until golden.
  8. Remove from the oven, then cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Although it is traditional to use acacia honey in this recipe, you could use another variety.