Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

Panettone versus Pandoro is the ultimate Christmas Bake Off

What’s the best Italian Christmas cake

In Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, skiers welcome in the first hours of Christmas Day in a torch-lit run. In the medieval village of Faglia di Oratino in Molise, residents build a large candle made of dry branches, measuring 15 meters high, and carry it to the town’s main church to be burned on Christmas Eve.


At the stroke of midnight, Babbo Natale (Santa Claus), makes his very first appearance on Christmas Eve with presents often displayed on a pyramid-shaped ceppo, together with candles and other decorations.

Panettone vs Pandoro

There is nothing quite like the fervent rivalry between panettone and pandoro lovers but what is the difference?  According to legend, panettone was originally made in the kitchen of Milan’s nobile. Apparently, a kitchen boy in the court of Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan accidentally burnt the traditional Christmas Eve pastries and made up for it by mixing up leftover ingredients – flour, sugar, egg, candied fruits and raisins to make el pan de Toni. And what a great mistake it is. Shaped in an unmistakable dome, panettone is a buttery dough of raisins and candied fruit, but don’t even think of it as a fruit cake.  It’s light and fluffy.

Meanwhile in Verona is the star-shaped pandoro, similar with buttery dough but absolutely no raisins or candied fruit.  Again, a legendary origin story, pandoro traces back to the 16th century when a customary Christmas dish was a conical or star shaped cake possibly covered in gold leaf. The pan de’oro quickly caught on, but today instead of using gold leaf, pandoro is lightly dusted with powdered sugar.


Which is better? Well, that’s up to you.

Let them eat Christmas Cake

Pandoro and panettone are enjoyed at any time during the holiday season, even if we’re supposed to wait until Natale.  A feta (by the slice) is probably the most popular way to enjoy pandoro and panettone, but everyone has a favourite- whether it’s lightly grilling a slice and adding a dollop of marmalade or zabaglione (a Roman favourite) or using it for a post-Christmas french toast breakfast.

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