Pandoro: Classic Christmas Cake From Verona

A Pandoro Christmas cake in Gastronomia Stella, Verona
Danette St. Onge
  • Total: 2 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Rise/Rest Time:: 8 hrs
  • Yield: 1 cake (6 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
773 Calories
54g Fat
63g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 cake (6 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 773
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 54g 69%
Saturated Fat 29g 147%
Cholesterol 322mg 107%
Sodium 796mg 35%
Total Carbohydrate 63g 23%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Protein 13g
Calcium 152mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Pandoro symbolizes Christmas in Italy like few other desserts (except for its sister cake, panettone, from Milan). It even looks like a Christmas tree—a towering, star-shaped cake topped with snow-white powdered sugar. It originates from the northern Italian town of Verona, the romantic city made famous by Romeo and Juliet.

Like panettone, pandoro (meaning literally, "golden bread") has a light, fluffy, yeast-risen golden interior and a brown outer surface. However, unlike panettone, it does not contain candied fruit or raisins, which makes it the preferred Christmas cake of many.

These days, commercial versions often contain some sort of filling, such as limoncello or chocolate cream. Most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced pandoro from their local baker or supermarket as it is a difficult and time-consuming to make, requiring four separate lengthy risings and three resting periods after being rolled out. If you are an accomplished and devoted baker, however, making it at home can be quite rewarding. You'll need a high-sided pandoro mold—the molds used in Verona are about 10 inches (25 cm) high, 8 inches (20 cm) across at the top, tapered, and star-shaped in cross-section, usually with 8 points. If you cannot find a Pandoro mold, a similarly tapered cylindrical mold will have to do.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 ounce/20 grams active baker's yeast (sold in the refrigerated/dairy section)
  • 3 cups/300 grams all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 5 egg yolks (divided)
  • 2/3 cup/120 grams granulated sugar (divided)
  • 2 sticks/200 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 whole egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup/30 grams powdered sugar
  • For Cake Mold:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and combine it with 1/3 cup of the flour, 1 of the egg yolks, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar, plus sufficient water to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

  2. Sift 1 1/3 cups of the remaining flour onto your work surface and combine it with 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar. Place the risen dough on top and add 3 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of the butter. Knead well and then shape the dough into a ball.

  3. Lightly flour the large bowl, add the dough, and cover it with the cloth. Set aside to rise again for another 2 hours.

  4. Then combine the remaining 1/3 cup flour and remaining 1/4 cup sugar on your work surface and work it into the dough, together with the whole egg and the remaining egg yolk. Knead the dough well until it is homogenous; put it in a floured bowl and cover it with a cloth, and let it rise for another 2 hours.

  5. Flour your work surface and return the dough to it. Add the lemon zest and the vanilla extract, and then knead in the cream, a little at a time, until it is completely absorbed.

  6. Spread the dough out on your work surface and shape it into a rectangle using a rolling pin. Cut the remaining 13 tablespoons butter into small bits and distribute them over the center of the sheet of dough. Fold the sheet into thirds, and then roll it out again. Let it rest for 30 minutes, and repeat this folding and rolling two more times.

  7. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Butter and flour the cake mold, turn it upside down and tap it gently to remove excess flour.

  8. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in the mold; it should fill the mold about halfway. Cover the mold with a cloth and put it into a warm place to rise until the dough reaches the top of the mold (about 20 minutes).

  9. Bake the pandoro for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 360 F (180 C) and bake for 30 minutes more. Unmold the pandoro immediately and cool it on a rack. Before serving, dust it with abundant powdered sugar.