Classic Christmas Italian Panettone

Classic Christmas Italian panettone on a plate

The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 75 mins
Chill and Rise Time: 15 hrs
Total: 16 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 10 to 14 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
460 Calories
21g Fat
58g Carbs
9g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 14
Amount per serving
Calories 460
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 11g 56%
Cholesterol 124mg 41%
Sodium 208mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 58g 21%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 25g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 273mg 6%
*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.)

From the Italian panetto or small cake, panettone is a large fruity enriched sweet bread, offered typically during Christmas throughout Italy and in Italian communities around the world. Originated in Milan, it is a large, dome-shaped cake that has been leavened with yeast. It has a slightly light and airy texture but a rich and buttery taste, and is not very sweet. The jury is still out on whether panettone is a cake or a bread because it's both as chewy as a loaf of bread and as fruity and sweet as a fruit cake. Pandoro, another Italian Christmas bread, is often confused with panettone but is a star-shaped golden cake, without any dried fruit, from the city of Verona.

Filled with dried fruits and candied peels, spongy panettone needs care and attention, but making it is not as difficult as it might seem, as our straightforward recipe shows. Sliced or pulled by hand, alone or with butter, cream, or fruit preserves, don't miss out on this wonderful dessert, great for brunches, coffee, and tea times.


Click Play to See This Buttery Classic Christmas Italian Panettone Come Together


For the Fruit:

  • 10 ounces mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, cranberries, dried cherries)

  • 4 ounces candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped

  • 2 ounces glace or candied cherries, quartered

  • 6 tablespoons Cointreau or your favorite liqueur or fruit juice

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fast-action dry yeast

  • 6 ounces milk, divided

  • 1.75 ounces (or 1/4 cup) fine sugar

  • 18 ounces (or 4 cups) strong bread flour

  • 1 teaspoon fine salt

  • 6 large free-range eggs, divided

  • 10 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided

  • 1 ounce blanched whole almonds

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Fruit

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Dried fruits in small bowls along with Cointreau on a wooden cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  2. Put all the dried and candied fruits into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

    Dried and candied fruits mixed together in a large glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  3. Pour in the Cointreau, mix again.

    Cointreau pouring into a large glass bowl of dried and candied fruits

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  4. Cover, and store in a cool dark place overnight. Do not refrigerate.

    Cointreau-soaked dried fruit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

Prepare the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Classic Christmas Italian panettone dough ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  2. Warm up 5 ounces of the milk to lukewarm temperature. Reserve the remaining ounce of milk in the fridge. In a heatproof jug or bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast over the warmed milk, stir in the sugar, and leave to one side for 5 minutes.

    Yeast and milk mixture in a white bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  3. Tip the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the salt into one side of the bowl. Pour in the frothy yeast mixture onto the other side—salt should never come into direct contact with dry or fresh yeast as it will kill the yeast, making the bread dense and hard.

    Dry yeast added over the warmed milk and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  4. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast at slow speed to combine the ingredients. Add 5 of the eggs, turn the mixer to medium speed and continue mixing until the dough smooths out, although it will become sticky.

    Panettone dough coming together with a dough hook in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  5. Cut 9 ounces of the softened butter into bite-sized chunks. Raise the speed of the mixer and add the butter a few pieces at a time.

    Softened butter added to panettone dough in a stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  6. Let the mixer continue to run for at least 5 more minutes. The dough will turn glossy and even smoother and so soft and airy that it will be impossible to handle. This is the texture that you're looking for.

    Panettone dough mixed together in a stand mixer bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  7. Grease a large baking bowl or dish with 1/2 ounce of the remaining butter. To retain the maximum amount of air, let the dough slide down into the greased bowl by its own weight. Do not force it out.

    Panettone dough pouring carefully into a glass container

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  8. Scrape down any leftover dough with a soft spatula. Cover the greased bowl with a lid or tightly with plastic wrap and put it into a very cool place, preferably the fridge, and leave to proof overnight—the cold, long, slow rise will deliver the lightest of cakes. Slow is always better, and the result is a light and airy cake with a soft crumb.

    Panettone dough in a square glass dish covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

Make the Panettone

  1. Place dough on a floured work surface and spread out into a rectangular shape.

    Panettone dough spread out onto a wood board

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  2. Strain the soaked fruits through a fine sieve, discard the juice. Place half of the fruits onto the spread-out dough.

    Dried and candied fruit spread out on the panettone dough

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  3. Fold the dough over the fruits and lightly roll the dough around to evenly distribute the fruit. Spread the dough again and repeat as before with the remaining fruit. The dough will be lumpy and knobbly, but look out for clusters of fruit and give them another roll around to redistribute it, if needed.

    Dried fruit spread out on top of panettone dough before it's rolled

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  4. Form the dough into a roughly shaped ball.

    Panettone dough rolled into a ball on a wooden pastry board dusted with flour

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  5. Grease a 7-inch panettone tin or panettone paper case with the remaining 1/2 ounce of butter. If you have neither of these, use a regular cake tin, but line the base and sides with greaseproof paper standing at least 2 inches above the rim.

    Panettone paper mold brushed with butter

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

  6. Drop the dough into the center of the tin, tuck the almonds into the surface of the cake, and cover loosely with a tea cloth. 

    Pannettone dough with almonds on top in the paper mold

    The Spruce Eats

  7. Proof the cake in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours until the dough is well risen and rising above the tin. If 3 hours isn't enough, give it enough time: The key here is to have the rise above the rim of the tin or case.

    Panettone proofing in a paper cake mold

    The Spruce Eats

  8. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  9. Mix the remaining egg with the remaining ounce of milk and brush over the surface of the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 300 F and cook for a further 45 to 55 minutes. The panettone is ready when a skewer comes out clean from the middle part of the cake.

    Panettone brushed with egg mixture before baking

    The Spruce Eats

  10. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack, then remove and leave it to cool completely.

    Classic Christmas Italian panettone baked and cooling on a metal cooling rack

    The Spruce Eats / Yana Karin

    What Is an Enriched Dough?

    An enriched dough is one that has more ingredients than the basic yeast, flour, salt, and water. Eggs, sugar, milk, and/or butter are added to the dough. The addition of these enrichments makes the dough very heavy but also helps the final texture be really airy and fluffy, like our panettone, challah, or stollen. Enriched doughs need enough time to proof, once after mixing and once after shaping.

    Additional Flavors and Substitutions

    • Soaking the fruit in Cointreau or any liqueur of your liking enhances the flavor of the cake. But even without it, the panettone will be delicious. If alcohol is not your thing, or the cake is for children, then substitute orange or apple juice for the Cointreau.
    • Our recipe is for the classic combination of fruits and thereby flavor. You can choose the fruits in any proportion you prefer, or avoid one or more altogether.
    • Switch out the almonds on the top of the cake for walnuts or cashews. Or leave out the nuts altogether and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
    • Although not a part of the classic recipe, adding chocolate chips complements really well the fruity flavor of the cake. If chocolate is your thing, add 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips at the same time you incorporate the dried fruit.

    How to Store Panettone

    • The cake is delicious eaten fresh and keeps well in an airtight tin for a week at room temperature. It also freezes well for up to two months. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator overnight and slightly warm up in the oven, avoiding crisping up the bread.

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