Panettone: Italian Christmas Cake

The dome-shaped Italian panettone is the perfect treat for the holiday season! Try this sweet Christmas bread with candied peel and raisins at home!


Sparkling fizzy Prosecco and delicious Italian sweet bread Panettone, the makings of a traditional Italian Christmas! You’ll often find stores selling gift baskets with this combination during the holiday season!

What is Panettone?

Panettone is a dome-shaped Italian sweet bread or cake made with flour, raisins, and candied fruit. Originally from Milan, the cake is dome-shaped, 12 to 15 cm tall and usually sold in 1 kg loaves.

Who Invented Panettone?

Although panettone originated in Milan, there are a number of legends about its origin.

The most popular legend tells the story of Ughetto degli Atellani, a nobleman from Milan in the late 1400s. He fell in love Adalgisa who was the daughter of Toni, a poor baker. But because of their different classes, he knew that the Duke would not allow him to marry Adalgisa.

Ughetto devised a plan to help her father become rich by disgusing himself as a baker and offering to work for her father.

He invented a rich bread by adding non-traditional ingredients such as raisins and candied fruit to the loaf. The bread became popular and Adalgisa’s father Toni prospered, and the bread was soon called panettone or the ‘bread of luxury‘.

And of course, the Duke of Milan approved of the bread and approved of the wedding.

Another story tells of an assistant named Toni working in the kitchen of the House of Sforza in Milan in 1474.

The main chef had burned the original dessert that was to be served for Christmas. So the assistant Toni put together whatever ingredients were available and created a bread that was a hit. It was called ‘il pan de Toni’ or Toni’s bread.

There are a few more legends about lawyers and priests, but no one knows who really created it.

In the 1800s butter and eggs also made their way into the bread.

And in 1919, the Milanese baker Angelo Motta started mass producing the panettone. He was also the one who increased the bread’s height to make it taller and gave the dough its lightness by making it rise 3 times. The Motta company is now a household name selling panettone.

A few years later, circa 1925 Gioacchino Alemagna started selling panettone using a similar method, starting a great competition or war that resulted in panettone being industrially mass-produced.

By the late 1940s, panettone had become accessible to everyone, and is now popular as a Christmas worldwide!


Recipe Pointers For Italian Christmas Cake

  • It’s important that the starter rests for 8 to 12 hours so that the dough comes out lighter.
  • Serve with a glass of prosecco, crema di mascarpone, or amaretto.
  • For a boozy dessert, soak the raisins in rum or your favorite liqueur a few days before using them.
  • You can also add chopped nuts or candied ginger to the panettone.
  • If you use choco chips instead of raisins and candied peel, this sweet bread will be a chocotone that’s popular in South America.
  • The panettone has to always be cut in wedges.
  • Sprinkle with dusting sugar or a drizzle of liqueur before serving!

FAQs about Panettone Italian Christmas Cake

What does panettone mean?

Panettone means large cake or large bread, as opposed to a panetto which is a small cake or small bread.

There is also a popular legend that says panettone meant ‘bread of Toni’, the referring to the names of one of the purported inventors, or ‘bread of luxury’ in reference to another legend.

How do you pronounce panettone?

Panettone is pronounced pa-neht-tohn-ney.

Are there rules to make panettone in Italy?

Yes, in Italy, for a sweet loaf or sweet bread to be categorized as a panettone it has to be made with eggs that have at least four percent yolks, and should include at least 20 percent candied fruit and more than 16 percent butter.

How do I store the panettone?

Store the panettone in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

How do you make the tall panettone shape?

You create the tall panettone shape by using a panettone mold. These thick molds are tall and coated on the inside to prevent them from toppling over. Of course, they cannot be reused.

If you don’t buy the panettone baking mold, use any good tall cake mold for the panettone.

Panettone Italian Christmas Cake

Panettone Italian Christmas Cake

The dome-shaped Italian panettone is the perfect treat for the holiday season! Try this sweet bread with candied peel and raisins at home!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

Starter

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
  • ⅓ cup cool water

Dough

  • All of the starter
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup diced candied lemon
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup diced candied oranges
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Instructions

To make the starter:

  1. Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
  2. Cover and allow to rest on the counter overnight (8 to 10 hours.)

To make the dough:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the fruits and zest.
  3. Mix together by hand or with a dough hook on a stand mixer until you have a soft, smooth dough.
  4. Cover the dough and allow to rise until it is puffy, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  5. Prepare a panettone bread mold with nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Gently deflate the dough.
  7. Then, knead in the fruits and zest by hand or with a dough hook on a stand mixer.
  8. Shape the dough into a ball and place into the prepared panettone mold.
  9. Cover and allow the dough to rise until it has just crested over the rim of the baking mold, about 1 hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  11. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.
  12. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  13. Finally, reduce the oven to 350 degrees and finish baking for 25 to 30 minutes.
  14. If you notice the crust beginning to brown, tent tin foil over the loaf. When done, the internal temperature would be 190 degrees.
  15. Cool the loaf completely beforestoring in an airtight container for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Mixing the dough with a bread machine (Alternative Method)

  1. Place the water, eggs, vanilla and orange zest into the bread machine.
  2. Next, add the sugar, salt, and flour.
  3. Dot the butter around the flour.
  4. Make an indentation into the flour and add the yeast.
  5. Start the bread machine using the “dough” setting.
  6. Before the final kneading cycle, add the remaining ingredients to the dough and allow the kneading cycle to finish.
  7. Remove the dough and place in a prepared panettone baking mold.
  8. Allow to rise and bake as previously directed.

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