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Chocolate Ithaca-Italian Fruit Cake (Pan Papato)

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Serves 10 loaves | Prep Time | Cook Time 20 to 45 minutes

Why I Love This Recipe

Mrs. Alexander was Jean & Ernie's first Ithaca landlady, and what-a-cook!


Orange requires advance preparation (the night before).

Make at least 2 weeks before use.

A photo and some interesting history about panpepato (or pampepato) from Italian Food, Wine, & Travel by Kathy Bechtel:

“Pan pepato, or ‘peppered’ bread, is a fruit cake which hails from either Siena or Ferrara, depending upon the source, and you will probably find others that claim to have first produced this spicy cake … depending upon the ‘legend’, panpepato is either the predecessor or antecedent of pan forte, ‘strong’ bread. Both are fruit cakes, pan pepato (or panpepato) is flavored with black pepper and chocolate, while pan forte (or panforte) is milder, with the chocolate and pepper omitted.”

“Documentation of these fruitcakes dates back to the 1200s, and shows that this type of bread was paid to Siena monasteries as a tithe. About this time, there are references to the Crusaders carrying this long-lasting sweet on their quests, to sustain them during sieges.”

“In Ferrara, panpepato is served from Christmas day to Epiphany, but is traditionally offered on New Year’s Eve. In 1465, the Duke of Ferrara, Borso d’Este celebrated the feast of St. Martin with an elaborate banquet that included pan pepato with gold pieces inserted in each cake. The bakers of Ferrara then became famous for this dish, and the Ferrarese would present a panpepato to nobility and to the Pope to gain favor. As recently as World War II, the Ferrarese sent an 11 pound panpepato to General Eisenhower.”

Ingredients You'll Need

2 lbs walnuts in shell (3-1/2 C shelled)
2 lbs almonds in shell (1-1/3 C shelled)
2 lbs filberts in shell (3-1/3 C shelled)
2 pkg muscat seedless raisins
1 orange (requires advance preparation; see instructions below)
8 tsp rum
2 lbs honey (melt slightly)
12 oz chocolate chips
Less than 1/2 lb flour (just enough to hold together)


Advance preparation:


Chop skin in small pieces.

Boil for 10-15 mins.


Put in cup with cold water overnight.



Mix nuts, oranges, raisins, and chocolate.

Mix flour in, then honey and rum. Mix well.

Hold together and make into loaves (can hold in 2 hands and press to stick together).

Put on ungreased pan.

Press down slightly.

Bake at 250 degrees for 20 to 45 minutes.

Will look soft on top, yet will harden later.

Remove from pan when almost cool.

Wrap in clean white cloths, soak with rum, then and wrap in foil.

Add more rum every couple of weeks.

Make at least 2 weeks before use.

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