Festive gifts you can eat

Fancy or simple, home baking is always welcomed as a gift. Make a double lot and you’ll have extra on hand to enjoy and share with visitors.

By Rebekah White and Sarah Heeringa. Photography Jane Ussher


Panforte means ‘strong bread’ in Italian, and this dense, rich cake from Tuscany is traditionally served at Christmas with dessert wine.

150g flour
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup roasted hazelnuts
1 cup roasted almonds
1/4 cup dried figs
1/4 cup dried apricots
100g glacé cherries
100g mixed peel
200g dark cooking chocolate
3/4 cup liquid honey
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Sift flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and add spices, chopped nuts and dried fruit, cherries and mixed peel. Set aside.

Melt chocolate, honey and brown sugar together over a low heat. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Press into a cake tin lined with baking paper and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the centre is firm to the touch. Let cool in the tin before slicing into wedges.

Lavender shortbread 

A classic Christmas biscuit with a dash of fresh lavender flowers for a hint of fragrance and flavour. Perfect with tea or as a gift 

250g butter
4 heaped tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lavender flowers
2 cups flour
pinch of salt 

Preheat the oven to 160°C. 

Using a cake mixer, beat sugar and butter (softened but not melted) until pale and creamy. Mix in lavender, flour and salt.

Tip dough onto a lightly floured board or silicon baking sheet and lightly knead to shape the dough into a ball. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, until firm.  

For shortbread circles, roll dough into logs, slice into rounds about 3-4mm thick, and lay out on a lightly greased baking tray. 

For star-shaped shortbread, use a rolling pin and a lightly floured board or silicon baking sheet to roll dough to 3-4mm thick.

Cut into shapes using a knife or star-shaped biscuit cutter. Transfer to lightly greased baking tray. Clump any extra bits of dough together for the next round of rolling and cutting.

Place prepared baking sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes until cooked but not golden. Cool on a rack.

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