Pandoro (Verona Christmas Cake)

Pandoro classic Christmas cake verona recipe

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Rise/Rest Time: 8 hrs
Total: 10 hrs
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
773 Calories
54g Fat
63g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
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.)

Christmas in Italy wouldn't be complete without two classic cakes: the panettone from Milan, and its sister cake, the pandoro from the northern Italian town of Verona. Like panettone, pandoro (meaning "golden bread") has a light, fluffy, yeast-risen golden interior and a browned outer surface. However, unlike panettone, it does not contain candied fruit or raisins, which makes it the preferred Christmas cake of many. Pandoro also looks like a Christmas tree—a towering, star-shaped cake topped with snowy white confectioners' sugar.

Most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced pandoro from their local baker or supermarket as it is time-consuming to make, requiring four separate lengthy risings and three resting periods after the dough is rolled out. Because the sweet and buttery cake is so simple in its taste, however, commercial versions often contain some sort of filling, such as limoncello or chocolate cream. This recipe, however, doesn't require a filling. 

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. The pan can be purchased online, but if you cannot find one, a similarly tapered cylindrical mold will do.

Ingredients

  • For the Cake:
  • 2/3 ounce (20 grams) active baker's yeast
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 5 egg yolks, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • For the Mold:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • For Serving:
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) confectioners' sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pandoro classic Christmas cake
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. 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 enough water to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

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

    Sift flour and create dough for pandoro cake
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Lightly flour a large bowl, add the dough, and cover it with the cloth. Set aside to rise again for another 2 hours.

    Lightly flour large bowl and put the dough in it
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. 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, cover it with a cloth, and let it rise for another 2 hours.

    Combine flour and sugar
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. Flour your work surface and return the dough to it. Add the lemon zest and the vanilla extract, then knead in the cream a little at a time until it is completely absorbed.

    Dough on floured work surface with lemon zest and a bowl of cream
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  7. Spread the dough out on your work surface and shape it into a rectangle using a rolling pin. Cut the remaining 13 tablespoons of butter into small bits and distribute them over the center of the sheet of dough.

    Spread dough out and add butter
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  8. Fold the sheet into thirds and then roll it out again. Let it rest for 30 minutes, and repeat this folding and rolling 2 more times.

    Fold dough
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  9. Heat 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.

    Butter and flour cake mold for pandoro
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  10. 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 in a warm place to rise until the dough reaches the top of the mold, about 20 minutes.

    Shape the dough in the pandoro mold
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  11. Bake the pandoro for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F/180 C and bake for 30 minutes more.

  12. Unmold the pandoro immediately and cool it on a rack.

    Pandoro cooling on a wire rack
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  13. Before serving, dust it abundantly with confectioners' sugar.

    Dust with confectioners' sugar
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  14. Slice the cake into 8 pieces and enjoy.

How Do You Slice a Pandoro?

You can slice this cake either horizontally, which produces a cake slice with unique points around the edges, or vertically, which produces thick wedge-like slices.

How to Store and Freeze Pandoro

Pandoro should be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a zip-close bag. It can be kept at room temperature for up to seven days.


For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator before toasting or reheating in a low (about 325 F) oven.

Variations

You can make your pandoro more festive looking by adding a flavorful filling and colorful decorations. Begin by slicing the cake horizontally into five pieces. Then spread a creamy filling, such as sweet lemon mascarpone or lemon curd, onto each layer, arranging the cake layers on top of each other at an angle so the points alternate (it will look like a Christmas tree). Feel free to add nuts such as pistachios to the filling for crunch, and chopped red fruits or whole berries along with fresh mint leaves to the top for color.

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