Panettone is a typical Italian cake always eaten at Christmas and at the New Year’s Eve (this is what we say formally, but actually we eat it during all the Christmas holidays!).
It has a dome shape and one Panettone usually weighs 1 kg. As a winter cake, it contains candied orange and raisins, and depending on the region in which it is produced it can be covered by sugar and almonds.
According to tradition, on Christmas afternoon, every Italian family eats Panettone while playing card games and accompanies it with a hot tea or a sweet wine.
In some regions of Italy, it is served with crema al mascarpone, (a cream made from mascarpone, eggs, and a sweet liqueur such as Marsala), or with zabaione.
But today many other variants are available!
The most famous modern Panettoni are filled with chocolate or pistachio (or both of them, why not?), but you can also find hazelnuts and Nutella, white chocolate and berries, and so on.
Actually, as many people do not like candied fruits, these new variants let everyone enjoy and appreciate this cake!
So, what exactly is Panettone and where does it come from?
In the 15th-century, the Duke of Milano, Ludovico il Moro, organized a magnificent Christmas Eve feast for all of his royal court. Each of the 12 luxurious courses was prepared by a different team of chefs, all tasked with making the Duke seem as wealthy and powerful as possible.
By the end of the dinner, the guests were ready for dessert. But, distracted by a forbidden kiss with a nobleman’s beautiful wife, the head pastry chef did not notice when his dessert began to burn.
What was to be done? All that remained in the kitchen were a few scraps of orange peels, some raisins, and leftover dough from the dessert that had burned – but that had been lying around for three days. The pastry chef began to panic; the Duke was not known for his understanding nature.
This was when Toni appeared: one young boy of the pastry chef’s team.
Accustomed to work with few ingredients, Toni added the remaining sugar and butter to the dough, filled it with the orange and raisins, and put the round pans into the oven.
With lot of anxiety, the pastry chef presented the dessert to the Duke’s court.
Rich and fluffy, the sweet dome-shaped cake was such a success across the court that the Duke called the pastry chef back into the hall to praise him. Amid applause, the pastry chef admitted that it was the pane di Toni (Toni’s bread) which, legend dictates, eventually became known as Panettone.
Eataly. 2021. What is Panettone? The legend of Italian Panettone Cake | Eataly. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.eataly.com/us_en/magazine/culture/legend-panettone-cake/. [Accessed 9 December 2021].
Italian Traditions. 2021. Tall, glazed, soft: how many types of panettone do you know?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://italian-traditions.com/tall-glazed-soft-types-panettone/. [Accessed 9 December 2021].
written by Giulia Battisti
Giulia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Languages for translating and interpretation and a Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing and Global Markets. She is now combining the two careers as a Communication Trainee in the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.