Panettone: The King Cake of Italian Christmas

It is not possible to imagine Christmas in Italy without a Panettone cake on the table. Panettone is known, eaten, and respected all over the world. Every winter, Italy bakers prepare between 100 and 120 million sweet Christmas cakes and consumes almost a billion euros! So, what is this cake that gained the worldwide popularity?

Panettone: The King Cake of Italian Christmas
Panettone: The King Cake of Italian Christmas

Name, Location, and Other Details

What does the name mean? There is no doubt about the origin of the title because in Italian “pane” means bread. As a result, “panettone” could be translated as “big loaf of bread”. But there is also a Panettone Christmas brother, a pandoro. The name of this sweet is even easier to translate because it means golden bread.

Where is it produced and why is it eaten? The Panettone is a typical, traditional Christmas cake from Milan and the whole region of Lombardy. It might be that Panettone is older than the famous cheese of Parmesan because there are some written sources from the 9th century that tell about the tradition of “pater familias” for Christmas Eve when families held a large, dome-shaped loaf of bread. In the name of family unity and common works! In the Middle Ages, the bread of the poor and the rich was baked in separate bakeries, the only exception being the Panettone, which was baked everywhere and eaten by both the rich and the poor.

When this cake is a little dry, it becomes even tastier. Most confectioners recommend not eating this freshly baked Christmas cake, but keeping it for a few hours or even a few days. Panettone is delicious and slightly dry, so it can be soaked in tea or cappuccino. Milan still has a tradition of preserving a piece of Panettone from Christmas until February 3, when St. Biagg’s name day is commemorated. The Milanese chew the dried Panettone because they believe that the saint will protect them from colds.

Homemade or Mass Production?

Although the products of this cake are noting extraordinary, the cake can be very expensive. Can you guess how much costed the most expensive Panettone of the world? Well, the amount is 80 thousand euros! It was baked a few years ago by Turin confectioner Dario Hartwig on behalf of a Russian billionaire. He covered the dome with an edible gold film, and the base, which is usually made of confectionery paper, was decorated with pure gold and diamonds. Whether the customer did not choke on the bite of this Christmas cake is an unknown fact.

Homemade or Mass Production
Homemade or Mass Production?

Of course, homemade Panettone is always a better option. The price of an already made Panettone can be as low as a few euros, and that baked in a small bakery shop can cost about 20 euros or more. It all depends on the quality of the ingredients, experience, and patience. Yes, because it is not worth expecting on the first attempt to bake an ideal, porous, but non-rubbery, fragrant Christmas cake you can choose the one that is already made. However, do not be scared to try your own skills and even if the cake is not going to be perfect, you can enjoy the relaxing process of baking.