Frustingo Holiday Fruit Cake of Le Marche
Scrumptious fruitcake from the Ascoli Piceno province in Le Marche, an eastern region of Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea. Moist with intense complex flavors—dried figs, liqueur, nuts and orange— frustingo will be the hit of your holiday table. It’s simple to make, sugar-free and stays amazingly fresh for a month or more.
The recipe is more than 2,000 years old, dating back to Etruscan times and the Picenes Iron Age inhabitants of Italy. Frustingo was popular with ancient Romans such as the philosopher Pliny who in his writings called it panis Picentinus. In the 18th century the recipe evolved with Marchigani adding ingredients, like coffee and chocolate, not available in ancient Italy. Frustingo comes from the Latin word frustum, meaning little piece or chunk.
As with all Italian recipes, there are many variations. Some in Le Marche add anise seeds to the cake, others add rum or coffee liqueur. Feel free to experiment. Once when I couldn’t find candied citron or candied orange peel I substituted orange marmalade to great success.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Simmer the figs in a small pan in ½ cup water, until softened. About 10 minutes. Let cool.
Put the figs and all the ingredients, except the cherries, in a large food processor and process until well combined. Spoon the mixtures into a well-oiled bake pan, individual ramekins, or muffin cups and top with additional nuts. Brush on a bit of olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees until firm, about 1 hour. Serve topped with candied cherries or cherries in syrup, if using.
Serve at room temperature. Frustingo can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.