Panettone and Pandoro: Italian Christmas Cakes

We are in the heart of the sweetest season: panettone and pandoro!

The holidays in Italy wouldn't be complete without panettoni and pandori: they are as iconic as a tree, wreath, or mistletoe in other cultures. Traditionally, Italians give the festively wrapped cakes as gifts, as they symbolize luck and prosperity through the New Year. Learn about these delicious Italian treats, then incorporate them into your own holiday traditions this year!

What is Panettone?

Literally “big bread,” panettone is a sweet, eggy cake that is traditionally dotted with candied and dried fruit (though we love the festive varieties, such as hazelnut or chocolate), then rises into a domed shape as it bakes.

For most holidays, we Italians eat our local specialties – but there are a few exceptions! Panettone was first created in Milano, though nobody is sure exactly how it came to be (the romantic side of us loves this creation story, though). At Eataly, we work with many artisanal bakers that still create the holiday cakes in the original bakeries, which are often more than a century old.

The odd thing about this specialty – given that we Italians love to cook and bake – is that it is hardly ever made at home and almost always purchased, perhaps because of its time-intensive baking process (the finicky dough alone takes 30 hours to rise). Happily, even the traditional packaging for panettone is festive; the large, colorful box is wrapped in ribbon like a gift; it’s traditional in the days before Christmas to bring a panettone as a present to the host of a gathering.

What is Pandoro?

Similar to panettone, pandoro is made from a rich, eggy dough, not unlike a French brioche, explaining its name of “golden bread.” The cake is baked in an eight-pointed star-shaped pan that gives it its signature form. It's modeled after the mountains near Verona, where the cake was first made. In fact, the earliest versions of pandoro were made during the era of the Venetian Republic, when trade had made the region extremely wealthy; some are said to have been served covered in gold leaf!

These days, we tend to dust pandoro with a small amount of vanilla-flavored powdered sugar instead – the “snow” on the top of the mountains!

Pandoro cake with prosecco

How to enjoy the holiday cakes

We Italians love to eat panettone and pandori at any time of day (yes, including breakfast!)

Delicious on their own, both holiday cakes pair well with coffee and wine. And to give your slice an extra festive twist, pair it with whipped cream, sweet spreads, fresh fruit, and dark chocolate. 

This year, incorporate this sweet tradition into your life by shopping our holiday cakes and pairings in our markets and online