Christmas in Venice: Cakes

With less than a week to go before Christmas we turn to the cakes that Venetians will be eating next Monday. And if you don’t have time to make one, never fear, because the traditional Venetian Christmas cake is so famous that you can find it almost anywhere. Venetians also almost never make them so it’s fine to buy one.

Pandoro, which means ‘golden bread’ was eaten by Venetian nobles as far back as the thirteenth century seemingly imported from the city of Verona where its roots, as nadalin (Christmas cake) go back to the twelfth century. Like pandoro it was popularized all over Italy as a Christmas cake at the beginning of the twentieth century but is still very traditional, more so than the panettone, in Venice.

pandoro
Pandoro the main Christmas cake for the Venetians.

Pandoro is basically a bread enriched with eggs and sugar, similar to French brioche, but softer and sweeter. It’s baked in the form of an eight-pointed star, and covered in icing sugar before serving. It’s usually cut into long slices.

The way to eat pandoro, according to my nonna survey, it ‘with it’s sauces’ which usually means with mostarda and crema al mascarpone. So this is how to eat the mostarda di peretti which I showed you how to make a few days ago. Crema al mascarpone, is basically mascarpone cheese which has been whipped up with eggs and sugar. The recipe is at the end of this article.

pandoro2
You eat pandoro with mostarda and crema al mascarpone.

As well as the pandoro, Venetians will sometimes also eat focaccia Veneziana, although this is really eaten for Easter. This has a similar consistency to panettone but doesn’t have fruit or candied peel in it, and is lightly flavoured with cinammon, cloves, orange, and vanilla. But the main event is the crusty sugary topping often with almonds.

focaccia
Focaccia Veneziana is not just for Easter.

The other thing that you can’t not eat at Venetian Christmas is mandoreato (sometimes written mandorlato. This is a typical produce of Cologna Veneta, in the province of Verona, about 100km from Venice. Again, we know that this has been eaten for Christmas in Venice since the 1500s.

mandorlato1
Mandoreato is officially spelled mandorlato but pronounced in the first way.

As the name suggests (mandorla is Italian for almond) mandoreata is a kind of nougat, made from almonds with eggs whites and sugar. It’s sweet and brittle and tastes of toasted almonds, and has a rice paper base.

mandorlata
Mandoreato di Cologna Veneta

So, there you have a run down on Venetian Christmas cakes. If you’d like to try these delicacies at home, here’s the recipe for crema al mascarpone.

Buon appetito!

Crema al mascarpone
A cream made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar, and eaten with pandoro for a Venetian Christmas treat.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs, separated
  2. 3 tablespoons sugar
  3. 250g mascarpone
Instructions
  1. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  2. Beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until they turn pale.
  3. Soften the mascarpone with a spoon and then mix it with the egg yolk mixture until fully combined.
  4. Fold the beaten egg whites into the mixture being careful not to knock the air out of them.
  5. Serve.
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