Panettone: The Italian Large Cake

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It is not easy to ignore the very high boxes of panettone displayed on store windows of high end food stores and shelves of membership shops. They come across as ideal gifts for the holiday season but this sweet bread loaf in its peculiar shape is actually a staple Christmas and New Year delicacy in Western and Southern Europe. Though often described as Italian cake, it's has more similarity to bread than cake as we know it.

History of Panettone

The birthplace of panettone is Milan, Italy. Angelo Motta started producing this cake in 1919. He is credited for the cake's tall dome shape which was made possible by making the dough rise 3x for about 20 hours before being cooked.  Gioacchino Alemagna, another Milanese baker, adapted the same recipe in 1925. The industrial production of this cake was a result of the intense competition between these two bakers. 

The word panettone came from the Italian word "panetto" which means a small cake . The addition of the suffix -one effectively changed the meaning to large cake. Given these facts, it is still believed by many that panettone or at least a version of it dates back to early Roman history.

A Christmas Tradition

Every Christmas, food companies and bakeries in Italy produce millions of panettone. These Italian leavened cakes  are made with raisins and candied orange peel. It is eaten with sweet hot beverage or wine. 

It has become a tradition for Italian families to have a panetto at the Christmas meal table. The practice of doing so spread in many parts of the world where Italian migrants traveled to and stayed. This Italian large cake may technically be bread but it is no less festive and luxurious-looking than an icing covered cake. 


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