Panettone Cake: Fruitcake that Everyone Loves

Panettone Cake—Italian Christmas Bread Panettone

An Italian hybrid of cake and bread with a tender brioche-like crumb, shows up in every bakery in Europe at Christmastime.  It’s panettone cake – so springy, light, and delicious that it could single-handedly redeem the concept of “fruitcake” forever.

Really. It’s that good.

But it’s also one of the most challenging and time-consuming recipes you can try. Classic panettone can take over 24 hours to prepare. And you can easily invest a king’s ransom in dried fruits, candied citrus peel, and roasted nuts. Of course, this explains why most who love this moist holiday bread buy it rather than bake it.

But if you want total control over the quality of ingredients and the ultimate flavor—then you need to set aside the time to make your panettone from scratch. The long production time is a result of the multiple slow rises required. But they’re worth it.

Where Does It Come From?

Although its backstory is a bit uncertain, historical records show that Panettone has been around for centuries, perhaps as early as the 1200s. The first recipe for this sweet treasure has been traced back to 15th century Milan. But how did it get its name?

A favorite story tells of a nobleman and accomplished falconer in Milano, Ughetto degli Atellani. He falls in love with the beautiful Adalgisa, daughter of a lowly baker. Her father has fallen on hard times and is struggling to make ends meet. Of course, Ughetto’s family forbids him to marry Adalgiza. He then disguises himself as a baker named “Toni” and takes a position at his sweetheart’s family bakery. While there, he invents a rich new sweet bread that includes eggs, butter, sugar, and dried fruit in the batter.

The delicious panettone cake becomes immediately popular as a Christmas treat and saves the bakery. Ughetto’s family relents and gives Ughetto permission to marry. The story ends well and the “Pan del Ton” (Toni’s bread) or panettone becomes a romantic and tasty tradition in every Italian home at Christmas.


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