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June 24, 2014

Napa Cakes Panforte

by Anne Paddock

The original power bar dates back to the Romans when the Italians combined fruits and nuts to make a moist, dense round cake called Panforte which literally means “strong cake” owing to the slightly spicy flavor. Some people would call Panforte a fruitcake but with the negative connotation that fruitcake conjures up – especially among young people – classifying this Italian creation with the often ridiculed candied fruit concoction does not do this cake justice. A slice of Panforte is truly heavenly owing to the concentration of dried fruit, nuts, honey, and spices.

Today, there are as many variations of Panforte as there are ingredients with a truly outstanding example made by Napa Cakes of California. Inspired by the abundant fruits and nuts grown in the Napa Valley, Marjorie Caldwell takes locally grown ingredients to create two varieties of Panforte: Original and Apricot Almond.

200148_187140737988239_2293989_nThe Original Panforte is made by combing raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, Blenheim apricots, and tart cherries with a bit of oat and almond flour. Grapeseed oil, honey, cocoa, cane sugar, and spices are then added before placing the batter into shallow cake pans and slowly baking them into dense, moist, and flavorful cakes. Sprinkled with confectionary sugar, the Original Napa Cake Panforte tastes of nuts held together with scrumptious dried fruit, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Slice a small piece for dessert or serve with a cheese plate.198641_187141324654847_3389200_n

The Apricot Almond Panforte is the newest creation made with sun-dried California-grown Blenheim apricots combined with peaches, nectarines, dates, almonds, honey, almond flour, oat flour, sugar, cocoa and spices. Slightly sweet with a hint of spice, the Apricot Almond Panforte has a chewy yet crunchy texture and is enchanting, causing whoever eats it to feel an insatiable greed for more.

aa_aboutThe first time I bought a Napa Cake Panforte was from a small cheese shop called Fairfield Cheese ( in Fairfield, Connecticut. As I browsed through the shop, I noticed so many products that I loved and bought regularly so when Chris, the cheesemonger suggested I try a Napa Cake Panforte, I trusted his recommendation (not that I didn’t have reservations; I am not a fan of fruitcake and Panforte seemed to fall into the fruitcake spectrum). Beautifully wrapped, I took the small round home and stared at it for about a week (the honey lasts as a natural preservative and wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep for a year unrefrigerated) before reluctantly opening the package and cutting a small piece. From the first bite, I was hooked and I wasn’t satisfied until 3 slices later when half of the small round cake was gone. A truly delicious savory cake that I now order multiples of.

cutcakeNapa Cake Panforte can be purchased at fine cheese and gourmet shops nationwide or on-line directly from the company: The Original Napa Cake Panforte comes in two sizes:  8 ounces (serves 8) for $18  and 16 ounces for $30 and the Apricot Almond Napa Cake Panforte comes in one size: 12 ounces for $20, plus shipping.

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