Spiced Umbrian Cake


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 6


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

The Umbrian recipe for this Christmas speciality originates in the small town of Terni and its surrounding area. The Italian name literally translates as ‘peppered bread’, referring to the spices, which include some ground black pepper. The recipe has medieval roots and is typical of the kind of recipes attributed to that period of history, when spices and other expensive ingredients were used in generous quantities for special-occasion dishes. Several versions of a similar recipe, with exactly the same name, exist in various parts of Central Italy.


  • oil, for greasing
  • 300 g/11 oz/scant 2 cups almonds
  • 300 g/11 oz/scant 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1.5 kg/ lb/ cups walnuts
  • 300 g/11 oz/ cups honey
  • 40-60 ml/3-4 tbsp strongest possible espresso coffee
  • about 400 ml/14 fl oz/1 ⅔ cups boiled wine must (see Cook’s Tip)
  • 400 g/14 oz/scant 2 cups currants or sultanas/golden raisins, soaked in water for 20 minutes, or until plump and softened
  • 300 g/11 oz/173 cups crystallised/candied citrus fruit, chopped
  • grated rind of 1 unwaxed orange
  • 1.5 ml/¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1.5 ml/¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 225 g/8 oz/2 cups pine nuts
  • 700 g/1 lb 9 oz dark/bittersweet cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 115 g/4 oz/1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  • about 200 g/7 oz/1 ¾ cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • icing/confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and flour a baking sheet.
  2. Blanch the almonds by soaking them in a bowl of hot water for about 1 minute, then draining them and removing the skins.

  3. Lay the hazelnuts and the walnuts out on a baking sheet and toast them under a hot grill or broiler, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden. Keep a close eye on them. Hold a few hazelnuts and walnuts at a time in a dish towel and rub off their skins. Repeat with all the remaining nuts. Chop them coarsely.
  4. Put the honey into a pan and add the coffee and the wine must, stir together and warm gently over a low heat.

  5. Drain the currants or sultanas and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Pile them on to a work surface. Add the chopped citrus fruit, the grated orange rind, nutmeg and pepper, as well as the pine nuts, chocolate, cocoa powder and sugar.
  6. Mix all these dry ingredients together with your hands, adding the warm honey mixture a little at a time. Gradually add the flour until you have achieved a manageable dough. (Add more flour or wine must as required.)

  7. Form this mixture into 4-6 small loaf shapes and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake them in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Panpepato should be allowed to rest for 2-3 days after baking before it is eaten. To serve, dust the cakes with icing sugar and cut into slices.