Piazza Navona in Rome is one of my favourite places. There are three ornate fountains in the middle of the square surrounded by beautiful architecture.
At Christmas time, the square transforms into a Christmas Market. Stalls selling Christmas decoration and all the makings for recreating the nativity at home. This seems to be the custom in some European countries which we don’t see much in the UK.
The Italians are really great at craft, evidenced by the intricate figures of baby Jesus, the camels and the three wise men. Looking closer at these stalls, you can’t miss the rows of witches hanging alongside these biblical figures.
The Italian Christmas Witch La Befana
She is La Befana, the Christmas witch. Italian children love her as she rides in on her broomstick on Jan 5th, Epiphany Eve, to deliver presents. Much like Santa Claus but with more wrinkles. Children hang up stockings that will mysteriously fill with sweets over night. If you are bad, you might get a lump of coal or even just a stick instead.
Unlike Santa, she doesn’t like milk and cookies. In Italy, you need to leave her a glass of wine and a plate of food. They believe that her broom will sweep away the troubles of the year.
Around Italy, they celebrate La Befana in different ways. In Venice, men dress up as witches and race their boats on the Grand Canal. Urbania holds a four-day festival. Epiphany parades take place in the Vatican City, in Florence and in small towns and villages all over Italy.
Italian Christmas Cakes
I’ve been invited to take part in Titan’s 12 days of blogmas campaign to celebrate the festive season. Their ‘12 Days of Blogmas,’ will feature 12 top bloggers sharing their Christmas recipe or craft inspired by one of Europe’s Christmas Markets. Mine is inspired by my visit to Rome where I visited a lot of markets in December. The most memorable was the one in Piazza Navona as I mentioned above.
I absolutely love Panetonne but there is another one that is a favourite in Italian households during Christmas, the Pandoro. I decided to make a dressed up and blingtastic version of this Italian Christmas Cake.
The Pandoro is tall star shaped cake that is one of the must haves for an Italian Christmas. The name Pandoro mean golden bread and the original recipe is quite complicated. It originated from Verona but has been adopted all over Italy. It is a rich cake made with eggs,
For a fuss free and impressive centrepiece for your Christmas table, just buy a shop bought cake and dress it up with a variety of Christmassy ingredients. It takes minutes to put together, tastes delicious and looks a million dollars. It’s a great alternative to the Christmas pudding.
Here I have used a Lemon Mascarpone filling with some a hint of citrus using tangerine peel.
To finish off, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar snow. Feel free to add any glittery sprinkles or even use an edible gold spray.
The whole family will love it.
Pandoro Italian Christmas Cake
- 1 Large Pandoro250g mascarpone cheese300ml double cream1 lemon zested and juiced2 tbsp limoncello or sherry2 tbsp icing sugarSome sliced almonds or chopped nuts for texturea couple of tangerines for the peelmore icing sugar for dusting
- Slice the pandoro horizontally into several slices.Place the largest piece on a serving platter. Mix the mascarpone with the lemon juice and zestPaint on the limoncello on each cut layersGenerously apply a thick layer of the cream mixture between the layers. Place the layers back to construct a star tower or a christmas tree, making sure to stagger the star design. (Not all the points are aligned).Sprinkle icing sugar over the cake from a height like a dusting of snow. Finish with some slivers of tangerine peel. Feel free to add any glittery decorations,fresh fruits, pomegranates or anything else you fancy. Get creative. This will look so beautiful and festive on your Christmas table.
If you do make this, do share an image and tag me on Twitter or Instagram. Would love to see your creations.
You can buy Pandoro from Waitrose or any Italian deli.
This recipe was done in collaboration with Titan Travel as part of their Titan Blogmas campaign.