During Christmas time Italian houses are filled with sweet smells of freshly baked cookies lavished with cinnamon, vanilla, coriander, anise and other aromatic spices. The famous Tuscany Christmas specialties include ricciarelli biscuits made of almond flour, soft cavallucci biscuits stuffed with nuts and candied fruits, and refined panforte cake. The recipes came from the Siena area and have been preserved unchanged for centuries, except of panforte.
In the past the cake was filled with oranges, melons, citrus, almonds, many spices and its top was powdered with a thick layer of black pepper until Queen Margherita paid a visit to Siena in 1879.
A local spice seller decided to bake another version of panforte specially for the honoured guest: without melon, but covered with vanilla-flavoured sugar. This “white version” which was named “Panforte Margherita”, has eventually replaced the one with black pepper. Christmas preparations start in Italy from the 8th of December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.