I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.


Gluten and lactose are not my friends.


Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.


I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

December 20, 2012

Five Spice Siena Cake

















It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Or at least smell like it with all the baking going on at my house!


Cinnamon, five spice, cloves and ginger- all sorts of spices subtly scenting the air.
Add to that a rich toffee, delicious dried fruits, and the zing of zesty orange, and you have a wonderful heady aroma that leaves no doubt that it's the festive season

As I'm the only discerning one in the family who enjoys a traditional Christmas (Fruit) Cake, I tend to make it every second year for home and instead concentrate on other special cakes and slices that we can all enjoy together. This year one of those treats is a Siena Cake.



Siena Cake is a lovely Christmassy treat that originates from Siena, Italy. Also known by the  name Panforte, it's a dense, chewy fruit and nut filled cake dating from about the 13th century that's traditionally flavoured with candied orange or citron and spiced with pepper for a bit of kick.

To suit our favourite Asian flavour profile, I played around with the ingredients a bit to give it a twist. By using ginger and 5 Spice and matching it up with some toasted pine nuts to give it a darker earthy flavour and using raw instead of castor sugar it helped keep it darker as well.

Really it's in between a sweet and a cake.
The sugar syrup brings the whole confection together kinda of like a type of delicious cement instead of using eggs and butter, and the small amount of flour means it stays dense and delicious for cutting into tiny slithers to serve with coffee or a glass of Christmas Spirits!




















Five Spice Siena Cake

100grm 70% Dark Chocolate- I used an orange flavoured one for a bit of extra boost
1 cup lightly toasted Almonds
1/2 cup lightly toasted Pine nut kernels
1 cup chopped dried Figs
2/3 cup small crystallised Ginger kibble
2/3 cup gf Plain Flour
2/3 cup Sugar- I used raw
2/3 cup Honey
2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp Clove powder
Zest of a nice big Orange
Edible Rice Paper for lining the tin- if available





This rice paper can be easily and cheaply found at delicatessens. Don't mix it up with dried Asian rice paper that is used for rolls and wrappers :)
























Line a 20cm pan
If you can't find rice paper, then grease it really, really, really well. If you try and line it with baking paper or wax paper it can still stick sometimes :(




















Finely chop the chocolate so it melts easily with the syrup




















Pop all the other ingredients into a heat proof dish, and stir around to distribute everything evenly




















Make sure the flour coats everything uniformly, and DON'T forget to add the orange zest until the last minute!




















Melt together the sugar and honey, then bring it to the boil until it reaches soft ball stage.
I keep a cup of water by the stove so I can periodically drop a bit of the syrup in to test. When you drop a bit in it should hold together softly in a nice ball- not dissolve or go instantly hard and brittle




















Nearly there, but don't take it too far or it will turn to hard toffee




















Working really fast, stir the hot syrup into the mixture and stir, stir, stir! Make sure all the flour is scooped up from the bottom and doesn't end up clumping. The chocolate will melt and help bind it all together into a lovely mess of more-ish-ness.


Oops! I accidentally deleted that photo, so here's a random one to keep you amused while you keep reading....





















Still working really quickly, pat the lovely warm mixture into the lined pan and carefully pat the top nice and smooth




















Bake at 150*C for 30-35 minutes, the top will be a bit burnished and might have just a few little bubbles showing. Don't overcook it, or it will go too hard and toffee-fied at the edges




















Let it cool down in the pan completely, then trim off any excess paper just to make it look pretty




















Now isn't that better?
With such a lovely amount of sugar and other goodies, if you put the cake in an airtight container it will last for a couple of months no problem at all. The flavours will just mature and taste better and better




















If you daughter tries to be helpful and pops the cake in the fridge overnight, slicing or even making a dent in the surface of the cake will be nigh on impossible. It's much better stored and served at room temperature if you don't want to chip a tooth or two




















So Dear Readers, how are you going with Christmas preparation, and do you like traditional Christmas Cake or not?






























29 comments:

  1. That sienna cake looks amazing Rebecca. I love this recipe and I would love to make this for my Christmas - I'm just running out of time! Shame no one else in your family likes Christmas cake. What's wrong with them??? xx

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    1. I just don't know Charlie, maybe I was adopted? xox

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  2. Gorgeous, Bec! And snap, cos guess what I have all the ingredients for on my bench! Love your version. Season's eatings to you and yours, lovely. May 2013 bring good health to you too. xox

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    1. How funny Lizzy! Thanks so much, same to you too x

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  3. Darling, only you would put five spice in a panforte. :) It looks amazing too! Lots of love to you and the fam this Chrissie! xx

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    1. Thankyou indeed Celia! And my very best wishes to you and yours too sweetie xox

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  4. That looks amazing Bec - well done you! I love panforte and this year have one that I actually bought in Siena back in June!

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    1. Oh you lucky thing you! I'm glad it didn't get confiscated by customs like the other stuff in your husbands bag- that would have been a tragedy!

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  5. My goodness I can smell this through the screen!

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    1. It smells so good Christie! All those deep, dusky flavours matched beautifully. I really lucked out this time :)

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  6. That looks so lovely and dense with all of the fruit and nuts! :D BTW love the photo of kitty :P

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    1. Why thankyou indeed Lorraine! I'm not one for cutesie cat pics, but every now and then one sneaks in :)

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  7. Fantastic! Love the spice and fruit. Merry Christmas!!!

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  8. Oh I can just imagine how good that smells!
    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas - that the cat stays out of your upside-down tree, but that you let her lick a beater or two.
    XXXOOO

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    1. Thankyou Janet, I hope your family is doing a bit better too sweetie. The cat has her own stash of goodies under the tree, and she has dined on fresh ham and wagu ribeye steak this Christmas! Talk about spoilt rotten!

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  9. that looks amazing yum yum.. merry xmas dear!

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  10. I love panforte! Hope you guys had a great Christmas and all the best for the New Year xx

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    1. Thanks Emma, nice and quiet thank goodness! And the very best for you too :)

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  11. Being Chinese, it's natural for me to ADORE Five Spice Powder! Though, we only ever use it in savoury dishes which is why this dessert is totally captivating to me. I don't know why we just stick to meat when it's almost like cinnamon already and can be quite versatile to use. Thanks for sharing this with us hope you had a great start to 2013 =D

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    1. Why thanks Winston! I love Five Spice and use it everything from biscuits and scones to slow beef braises- Yummo! I hope you have a great time visiting with you family :)

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  12. yum it looks amazing, hope you had a great christmas and cheers to a great new year :)

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    1. And the same to you Muppy! I hope you get a chance for a nice break with the kiddies too :)

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  13. Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo Intolarant(e)! Love the look of this recipe (and would be good for using up some of the items we already have kicking around here). I've always felt a little sad that paneforte was out of reach. I'm giving this a go!

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    1. Grieve no more my gluten free galpal! Why should we miss out? Gluten free should be just as exciting as anything else, right?!

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  14. This looks so delicious! I will have to try it next year! Happy New Year :)

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    1. Happy New Year to you too, I hope this year is full of exciting new adventures for you :)

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  15. My MIL was so disappointed that I don't fancy fruit cake.. hahaha... what a way to bond with her.. *sigh*

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