Italian cakes to sweeten the whole Christmas season

Panettone on the Amaretto Christmas table

Pandoro, Panettone or Panforte?What the dang are these cakes and why should I care?

Have you had your first mince pie yet? Ever thought of trying something different? Italians crack open their Christmas cakes well before the big day, much as with our mince pies. They’ll be gifting their Pandoro, Panettone and Panforte all through December, eating generous slices of Pandoro with cafe latte for breakfast or a piece of Panettone mid-afternoon with a glass of Vin Santo.

The treats taste like cakes, but are actually classed as sweet breads (‘pane’ means bread in Italian). Pandoro and Panforte are made from dough rather than cake batter so no need to feel guilty about eating them at any time of day. They’ve become increasingly popular in UK supermarkets over the years, but if you’ve yet to try an artisanal version like the ones we stock in Amaretto then do give it a shot – they are quite different to the mass produced versions. Crafted with picky customers in mind, they have to stand out amongst a very crowded Italian market so they really are something special. But which to choose?

Pandoro: a melt in the mouth classic

Our favourite of the three treats is without doubt the Pandoro (‘bread of gold’). The tall star-shaped cake is melt in the mouth, light yet in no way dry. It gets its colour from egg yolk, and its appeal lies in its simplicity. Pandoro originally hails from Verona and is a sweet lacy treat covered with icing sugar; delicious.

Panettone: shake it up

For many, the taste of Italian Christmas is the domed Panettone (large bread). The candied treat is wrapped in that brown and gold paper from Milan and can be varied (unlike Pandoro which is always plain). This year we have a variety of flavours in stock: pistachio, chocolate, Prosecco; they are all delicious. We also have a great gluten-free version.

Panforte: great for after dinner

The small round, harder discs of fruit and nuts wrapped in yellow or pink paper are Panforte (‘strong bread’). They hail from Sienna (like the light egg-white, almond and vanilla cakes Ricciarelli) but are eaten all over Italy at Christmas time, and for good reason. They  are filled with Christmasy spices and honey and are slightly chewy. Melt in the mouth sugar paper gives an extra pop; addictive. We also have a gluten-free free Panforte that is almost more delicious than the original. All in all this little cake is  great for an after dinner treat, and goes very well with Christmas spirits and wine – lovely after a cheese plate.

All of the above cakes are wrapped in card in Christmassy colours. They make a lovely addition for under the tree, to a hamper, or just to eat throughout the Yule-tide season – alongside your classic mince pie of course.