What is Panettone? (A Christmas Cake Recipe)

Panettone. A Cake, a Bread, or a Loaf?

What is Panettone? It is a large, fruity enriched sweet bread typically offered during Christmas and enjoyed by Italian communities worldwide. It is usually made with raisins, candied fruit peels, and almonds. It often contains brandy for added flavor!

What is Panettone, and What are its Origins?

You may be wondering, what is a panettone cake? First, let us look at its history. The history of Panettone dates back to 1839, when an Italian-Milanese dictionary first records its appearance.

Smithsonian Magazine credits this dish as “a homegrown Lombard specialty since the 19th century”, with cookbooks such as Giovanni Felice Luraschi’s Nuovo Cuoco Milano Economico placing roots firmly in that area around Milan by the 1850s.

Most Italians love this Italian Christmas bread. It’s such a big deal that it was subject to an authentication process under Italian law in 2005, and now international sales make up about ten percent of total yearly production!

There is even a romantic story that is associated with the Panettone. The romantic tale goes that a nobleman and falconer named Ughetto fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a baker whose business had hit upon hard times. 

The family was unhappy about this choice, so they forbade him from marrying her, but he did anyway because “how could any man resist such beauty?”.

Ughetto found the bakery where his lover worked and took a job there. He purchased butter and sugar and added them to the bread mixture. The result was Ughetta’s sweet bread that later became popular in no time! This saved the bakery from collapsing, and for once, Adalgisa (his lover) was so happy.

He added candied peel and raisins to the mix to continue pleasing her. This bread became so popular that it surpassed everything his family had ever produced before! They finally gave their permission for them to get married.

Panettone cake

The Ingredients in a Panettone

The recipe consists of wheat, butter, eggs, sugar, raisins, and other fruits and peels. Wheat is scarce at Christmastime and is considered a golden ingredient in Milan. 

The 1900s saw wheat as an integral part of many meals eaten worldwide– it was scarce during this time but still made its presence known with every baker whipping up their favorite Christmas treat: no wonder there were shortages!

An Executive Chef, Henk Drakulich, says that their most popular item is a light and fluffy bread called Panettone. It is created with an Italian sourdough starter for its unique flavor profile, making it more of a brioche texture rather than sweet like other pastries you would find on store shelves or bakeries.

The consistency by which this dessert-like treat comes out can best be described as bread-like due to how much time goes into fermentation from scratch before baking. It remains slightly sweet without being too high up there, where unfermented dough starts tasting differently because all those natural sugars start converting during storage.

All About Store-Bought Panettone

A traditional Panettone recipe includes dried fruit that has been tightly wrapped in an airy dough. It should always be taller than it is wide. The top will typically have some decoration on its surface to ensure you know which flavor the panettone is famous for, usually citrus or chocolate flavors, respectively! 

Modern versions have come in alternate shapes like hearts if they’re not just round loaves anymore. The shapes don’t matter as long as the essential requirements remain intact. 

Commercial Panettone is an Italian fruit cake traditionally made with candied fruits and raisins. It can also be topped off with toppings like hazelnut, chocolate, and almond. This Italian delicacy has been around since the 18th century when it was first sold in Italy during Christmas time as an affordable luxury item for those who could afford them. 

Some people could not afford them due to their high cost of production, which involved a lengthy fermentation process before baking on special wood-fired ovens.

How is Panettone Eaten?

A slice of Panettone is the perfect dessert to enjoy these winter holidays. You can have it with mascarpone cream, melted chocolate sauce, or Nutella, but if you’re feeling more traditional, try making a French toast out of this bread! It is a beautiful way for people who love sweet foods during their breakfast hour, as it tastes almost like cake in your mouth.

Panettone is a type of Italian Christmas bread that’s enjoyed worldwide. It has such an iconic, sweet flavor and texture that you’ll find it difficult to resist no matter how you choose to enjoy this delicious treat! Some people enjoy their panettone in the morning with coffee. 

Others prefer eating theirs alongside another drink- either Marsala wine or light sparkling wines like Moscato. 

This festive bread’s rich aroma and golden color make it a treat for all the senses. Unfortunately, the traditional way to serve Panettone is by removing its paper liner before slicing, which provides you with triangular pieces. Watch out! It’s bad luck to remove the domed top and consume it yourself.

Panettone christmas cake

A Classic Panettone Recipe to Make at Home

A Classic Panettone Recipe

Total time: 16 hours 15 minutes

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 75 minutes

Serving size: 10-14 servings

Nutritional Facts/Info per serving: 

Calories- 460

Fat- 0.74 oz (21g)

Carbs- 2.05 oz (58g)

Protein- 0.32 oz (9g)

Equipment needed

  • The panettone cake recipe calls for skewering fresh. You will need long enough skewers to encase the bottom of your oven-safe dish completely. 
  • Panettone papers or large cans.
  • Sturdy mixer.


  • 10 ounces (0.38 kg) mixed dried fruits (raisins, currants, cranberries, dried cherries)
  • 4 ounces (0.15 kg) candied orange and lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces (75.6 g) glacé or candied cherries, quartered
  • Six tablespoons Cointreau or your favorite liqueur or fruit juice
  • 4 cups strong bread flour
  • One teaspoon fine salt
  • Six large eggs, divided
  • 10 ounces (0.38 kg) unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce (37.8 g) blanched whole almonds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fast-action dry yeast
  • 6 ounces (0.23 kg) milk, divided
  • 1.75 ounces (66.15 g) (or 1/4 cup) refined sugar


Prepare the fruit

  • Collect all the ingredients (raisins, cherries, currants, cranberries).
  • Put all the candied and dried fruits into a bowl and mix them.
  • Pour the Cointreau and mix again.
  • Cover and store in a cool and dark place. Do not refrigerate.

Prepare the dough

  • Gather yeast, almond, milk, water, butter, eggs, sugar, flour, salt.
  • Sprinkle the dry yeast over warmed milk in a heatproof jug or bowl. Stir in sugar and leave for 5 minutes.
  • Tip the flour into a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over one side of the dough and pour in your frothy yeast mixture onto another, making sure not to mix any dry or fresh yeast with its bath since this will kill it!
  • Mix the flour, yeast, and salt to combine. Add five eggs one at a time while mixing at low speed until dough becomes smooth.
  • Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl and cut it into small pieces. Raise the speed of your mixer to high, then add one piece at a time until all nine ounces (0.26 kg) have been incorporated fully. 
  • Let the mixer run for 5 minutes so that the dough turns glossy and even smoother, so soft that it’ll be impossible to handle without feeling greasy! This is what you’re looking for- a “clean” texture ideal in any recipe. 
  • Add the final 1/2 ounce (0.08 kg) of butter to your greased bowl and let it slide into place by its weight. Do not force out any dough, as this will cause air pockets that leave you with an undercooked loaf!
  • Now that you’ve made your dough let it rest and rise overnight in the fridge. The cold will keep its shape even better than before! You’ll also end up with a light but airy cake that has a beautiful soft crumb because slow is always better when cooking yeast-risen baked goods like these loaves of bread.
Panettone cake slice

Make the Panettone

  • Place dough on a floured work surface and spread it into an even rectangle.
  • Strain the soaked fruits through a sieve. Discard the juice, then place half of the fruits onto the spread-out dough.
  • Fold the dough and lightly roll it around each fruit to evenly distribute. Next, spread out again if needed with a rolling motion until all of your ingredients are combined into one beautiful dish!
  • Form the dough into a roughly shaped ball. This will prevent your pie from drying and ensure that it has just enough structure when baked for an excellent result!
  • Grease a 7-inch (17.78 cm) panettone tin or paper case with the remaining 1/2 ounce (0.08 kg) of butter. If you have neither, use an 8-inch (20.32 cm) regular cake tin; line its base and sides securely to prevent any spilling over while baking but don’t forget about greasing these areas as well!
  • Drop some dough into the center of your tin, spread it out with a butter knife, and sprinkle almonds on top. Then, cover it with a tea cloth.
  • The dough must be allowed enough time to rise before baking. It needs to rise above the rim of the tin.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.67 °C).
  • Mix the remaining egg with a splash of milk into it. Brush over cake and cook at 300 °F (148.89 °C) for 20 minutes in the center oven; reduce heat to low while baking, seconding around 45-55 more minutes. You will know the Panettone is ready when the skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  • Let the cake cool in the can for 5 minutes. You can then remove and leave it on a cooling rack before letting this cooled shape dry out completely not to dent or crack any part of your masterpiece!

Buon Natale! (Merry Christmas)

Christmas is around the corner. What does it mean? It’s time to make Panettone, the Italian classic sweet bread loaf that you find on every table during Christmas. This moist and delicate treat is said to be a favorite of Santa himself! With the above recipe, why not try it at home!