Pandoro: Classic Christmas Cake From Verona

A Pandoro Christmas cake in Gastronomia Stella, Verona
Danette St. Onge
Ratings (6)
  • 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 (together with its sister cake, panettone, from Milan) symbolizes Christmas in Italy like few other desserts: It even looks Christmas-y, a towering, star-shaped cake topped with snow-white powdered sugar. It originates from the northern Italian town of Verona, the romantic city of Romeo and Juliet fame.

Like panettone, pandoro (meaning literally, "golden bread") has a light, fluffy, yeast-risen golden interior and a brown outer surface. However, unlike panettone, it contains no candied fruit or raisins, a fact that makes it the preferred Christmas cake of many. These days, commercial versions often contain some sort of filling, such as limoncello or chocolate cream. 

To be honest, it's difficult and time-consuming to make, requiring four separate lengthy risings and three resting periods after being rolled out, and therefore most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced pandoro from their local baker or supermarket, but if you are an accomplished and devoted baker, 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 eight points. If you cannot find a Pandoro mold, a similarly tapered cylindrical mold will have to do.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 ounce/20 g active baker's yeast (the kind sold in the refrigerated/dairy section)
  • 3 cups/300 g flour (divided)
  • 5 egg yolks (divided)
  • 2/3 cup/120 g sugar (granulated, divided)
  • 8 ounces/200 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 whole egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup/30 g powdered sugar (for dusting the cake before serving)
  • Handful flour (for dusting your work surface)
  • 2 tbsp. butter (for greasing the mold)
  • 2 tbsp. flour (for dusting the mold)

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 the loaf rise, in a warm place, for 2 hours.

  2. Sift half of the remaining flour onto your work surface and combine it with half of the remaining sugar, then work in the risen dough, 3 yolks, and 3 tablespoons of the butter. Knead well and then shape the dough into a ball. Lightly flour the large bowl, set the dough in it to rise, and cover it with the cloth. Set aside to rise again, for another 2 hours.

  3. Then combine the remaining flour and sugar on your work surface and work it into the dough, together with the whole egg and the remaining 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Spread the dough out on your work surface and shape it into a rectangle using a rolling pin. Cut the remaining butter into small bits and distribute them over the center of the sheet of dough. Fold the sheet in thirds, and then roll it out again. Let it rest for 30 minutes, and repeat the operation twice.

  6. Butter and flour the mold, turn it upside down, and tap it gently to remove excess flour. 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).

  7. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C). 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 it, dust it with abundant powdered sugar.