The best Italian holiday cake: Panettone or Pandoro?

Panettone and pandoro are the most popular holiday cakes in Italy. They are often pitted against each other in a competition to decide which is the best.

Panettone and pandoro (or in Italian, pan d’oro which means golden bread) are traditional holiday cakes with a dense consistency.
Panettone generally has fruit added to its dough which contains honey and an aromatic syrup. Pandoro is a rich egg and butter holiday cake, which is more bread-like, bright yellow in color, baked in a star-shaped mold, and finished with a dusting of icing sugar.
Pandoro was first created and recorded in Verona in 1894. Panettone originated in Milan, it is a more recent take on the sweet breads that have been made since Roman times. It was first mass-produced in the early 19th century.


Complex preparation techniques

Both cakes require a time-consuming process that can take several days to develop the yeast and form up to four separate doughs.
The panettone method involves forming a flour and water mixture each day and combining part of each refresh, as the mixture is known. The final combination will be added together with the other ingredients to form the first of two doughs. The final dough includes honey, vanilla, and aromas, such as tangerine and lemon paste.

Panettone italiano best holiday cake

For a pandoro there are two days required to develop the ideal yeast starter mixture and up to 24 hours to combine four doughs and allow them to rise and fully proof. The cakes are baked gently and cooled upside down to prevent them from collapsing. The appearance of the finished cake is often considered as important as the taste.

The legend of Panettone

Traditional versus new recipes

In Italian tradition, the holiday cakes symbolize luck and prosperity. In Italian families everyone seems to have one cake they prefer over the other, depending on their individual tastes. Panettone traditionally contains raisins and candied fruit, while pandoro does not. This difference is often the reason that people choose their favorite of the two cakes.

The cakes are traditionally served with ice cream, vanilla mascarpone cream or hazelnut cream. You can add your own twist by toasting slices and spreading them with fruit preserves or jam. There are also various recipes for pandoro and panettone which give the cakes a very different appearance and flavor. Some of the most popular additional ingredients include dark chocolate chips, fresh fruit pieces, and citrus zest. Alternatively, the cakes can be covered in melted chocolate or almond icing.

Whichever Italian holiday cake you choose and however it is served, you are sure to come back for more.