The whole world probably knows the Italian Christmas cake called Panettone. But, before I lived here I had only had poor, mass produced versions of the wonderful cakes. I bought them in specialty stores in the US and they were dry and stale.

After moving to Italy we saw that the cakes were just everywhere. They showed up as early as September. Talk about pushing the season! And by December entire supermarket aisles were dedicated to piles of the boxed cakes. All types. There are two traditional types of cakes…one has candied fruit. I’m not a fan of candied fruit myself. But there are other types. The second type of cake is pandoro. Plain cake with lots of butter in it and it is powdered with sugar when served. The Italians seem to be split in their preferences of these two holiday cakes. No Christmas dinner is complete in Italy without either panettone or pandoro, but often both. It is a real problem for many Italian families, because they are often split between panettone lovers and pandoro lovers. Some think pandoro to be too plain and buttery; the group usually don’t like raisins and candied fruits which are always in traditional panettone. So often, there are both types to please all people.

Pandora came from Verona. Pandora means “golden bread”. It is yellow in color and shaped like a star. It is dusted with powdered sugar before it’s served. It looks much like pound cake but since it is made with yeast, it is light and airy, rather than dense like pound cake.

Photo courtesy of Italian Gourmet

Panettone came from Milano originally. It is a yeasty cake filled with raisins and candied fruit and dome shaped. A legend shared with me by my friend says the name came from the fact there was a banquet in Milano  and the original dessert got burned. A pastry chef, named Toni, made a quick cake from left over ingredients and it turned out to be a big hit. All the attendees asked what it was called, and the head chef said “pane di Toni” hence the name 🙂.

Photo courtesy of Gambero Rosso

We have bought cakes from the grocery store. And we’ve bought cakes from a specialty wine shop. We even brought them back to the US in our suitcase for gifts on trips home at Christmastime.

But this year I decided to order a fresh one from our local bakery. It is family run and produces delicious bread and pastries all year, but at Christmas they put their energies into artisanal cakes. They do have the two traditional ones but they also have some amazing other flavors and types, from chestnut to chocolate to pistacchio.

Bakery on the left as we approach from our house. It is only a few steps away.

Here we are, Il Panificio La Rocca. The place was full of people buying cookies, bread and cakes.

Price and product list for the cakes.

This one is all dressed up, a gift for some lucky person!

The case full of torte waiting to be picked up. SO pretty!

Oh my goodness! What a difference. The cake was amazing! I will never buy a mass produced cake again. Yes, it was a LOT more expensive but it is artisanal — baked right down the street from us in the family run forno. So you pay for that. There were all kinds of cakes to choose from lined up on the counter when I visited to order mine. There were the traditional ones, of course, but there was a magnificent chocolate one covered in chocolate icing and sprinkles! And one enormous one which looked like it would feed an entire extended family! The one I chose was pistacchio with a frosting studded with whole nuts. Inside were cherries juicy and whole, not candied. And it was filled with a pistacchio cream. Oh my! I ordered it for a dinner at our house and the six of us nearly ate the whole thing.

And here is our Pistacchio panettone. Bellissimo! Bravi to the people at the forno who created it.

If you ever get the chance to eat one of these fresh bakery made cakes, jump at it!

10 thoughts on “Panettone

  1. Nancy Hampton Post author

    We do have a tree. Sadly artificial as it’s difficult and they only sell live ones here. But it’s still pretty. The boys love it. The bottom balls are double attached 🙂. Rocky likes to lick it, which I discourage but can’t be watching all the time! Sorry about the non-white Christmas. NYC at Christmas must be nice in any event! Merry Christmas!

  2. liz and mark

    Hi Nancy. It is a bit white at the moment, but we are heading to 9 degrees in the next few days, so it will not be a white Christmas. Mark and I will be in New York City for that week. I was hoping for a winter storm on Christmas day. I had a little fantasy of walking through Central Park in a big white storm. Not to be. Might be looking for crocuses instead. Do you have a tree? If so, do the boyz lie under it?

  3. Nancy Hampton Post author

    🙂 it was a labor of love! Mmmm. I didn’t know what we were missing. Hope all’s well in your household. Looking forward to seeing you on Christmas! 🌲💕

  4. Joanne Qualey

    So informative about panettone! Love your write-up and pics! Buon Natale and see you Wednesday.

  5. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Buon Natale to you and Mark, Liz from us and the boyz. If it’s very cold there will you have a white Christmas? No chance here! It’s been quite mild.

  6. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Oh sorry Audrey, they don’t make them after the Christmas season which ends January 6. That’s what makes them so special I guess. Only for the holidays. Guess you’ll have to plan another trip!

  7. liz kessell

    They all look so good. Real food. Mark and I hope that you, Luther, and the boyz, have a wonderful Christmas and with any luck we will see you in 2020. All the very best…Mark and Liz from very cold Toronto.

  8. Audrey

    Oh my, that looks delish!! I’ve never had Panettone because I’ve read that the ones you can buy here aren’t worth it. So whats the point? LOL. Do you know if they make these all year? I’ll be in Milan next May for a few days before heading south. If so, I’ll find a bakery and pick one up.
    Have a very Merry Christmas.

  9. Sharon Barresi Duncan

    We also purchase artiginale panettone..yum. Just bought ten to gift to friends. They had a new flavor this year that included nutella. Also, cinnamon and apple flavored panettone. Prices here are less ..with the most expensive and gift wrapped costing €19. Store bought brands are great for making french toast. Merry Christmas Nancy.

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