Panettone's star partner.
Star-shaped and golden, this traditional, Italian Christmas cake has it's official origins in Verona but long before October 1894 'Breads of Gold' were found all over Italy:
In Venice, 1500, during the Republic of Serenissima's reign, gold leaf was used to cover the most decadent of delicacies including a conical cake named 'Bread of Gold' - Pan de Oro.
In Rome, 200AD, Pliny the Elder wrote of a recipe by Chef Vergilius Stephanus Senex - 'panis' baked with the finest flour, eggs, butter and oil.
Pane di Vienna was found in northern Italy - a buttery cake like brioche, brought over from the Habsburg Empire in Austria.
In Veneto, 1200, star-shaped and golden, Nadalin was eaten as a dense, flat, festive cake containing no butter.
Then in 1894 Mr Melegatti from Verona created Pandoro.
So proud was the pastry chef that he patented his cake and its star-shaped tin, to be stored safely within the 'Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce of the Kingdom of Italy'.
Why so special?
Well, there's nothing quite like the popular pandoro.
They look similar, but where panettone is fruity and flavourful, pandoro is soft and buttery. Panettone contains candied fruits and/or raisins but pandoro remains plain. A large amount of proving is required in both mother-yeast recipes to achieve the signature consistency, here we're talking 10 hours and 7 cycles of kneading, 36 hours from beginning to end. It's a long process but then food is a labour of love in this country and this love belonged to Domenico Melegatti.
Perhaps the most iconic feature is a domed, 8-sided star baking tin, designed especially by artist Angelo Dall’Oca Bianca to form Pandoro's signature star shape.
So chuffed was Domenico that he generously published the 'Mille Lire Challenge' with a 1000 lire prize to anyone who could master the cake at home. 50c was a heap of money 140 years ago so you can imagine how many Italians took part but yes, you guessed it - nobody came close (at least not by Domenico's standards).
Melegatti has since grown into a multi-national company featuring biscuits, chocolate and more but we can safely say its fame lies classically in Domenico's first-ever fluffy cake, a bread of gold - pan d'oro.
Melegatti's recipe has remained unchanged since the 14th of October 1894 and can be bought as such in an elegant vintage tin. Through the years the Christmas cake has been chopped and changed and filled with all kinds of things, it's now made by multitudes of bakers. Looking solely at the Melegatti range, we go from candied peach with hazelnut cream, cocoa with coconut, pistacchio, Limoncello or Tiramisù to mini pandorini or Sambuco with dark chocolate topping.
In shops from November and boxed beautifully, Pandoro comes encased in a large bag with a small sachet of vanilla-flavoured icing sugar. The trick is to empty the sachet into the bag together with the cake and shake vigorously until the entire cake is powdery white. Pandoro can be sliced two ways: either lengthways with everyone getting a star point or horizontally, forming concentric star shapes you can then masterfully stack from large to small, creating a pandoro Christmas tree! Fill every layer with zabaione (an egg, liqueur cream) or mascarpone crema, dust your tree with more icing sugar 'snow' and dot the corners with raspberries or strawberries just like Christmas baubles! A beautiful centre-piece and truly tasty - you'll see everyone loves a pandoro tree - especially the bambini!
Now you can join a nation of Italians with a classic Christmas question:
"Panettone o Pandoro?"