Panettone: the fruitcake that keeps on giving

January 5, 2014

Another festive season has come and gone, but something still lingers on, and on, and on …

The whiff of the Christmas panettone is still in the air long after column inches have been devoted to it and radio hosts have expressed their opinions. Never before have I seen so much discussion about the humble Italian celebratory fruitcake from Milan.

TheGuardian.com journalist Julie Bindel called it “a monstrosity” and 702ABC Radio presenter James Valentine made no secret of his dislike for it and couldn’t be convinced otherwise despite listeners’ serving suggestions. Old traditions die hard, James.

My 89–year-old mother and her 84-year-old friend exchange panettoni every Christmas and until one of them has the courage to say “basta!” (enough) they will continue to feign surprise for many years.

Cat and panettone box

I quite like it and prefer it toasted, spread with thick slabs of butter. But after a fortnight, the novelty wears off. My mother receives many panettoni each year and thrusts great portions at me when I visit. Hasn’t she heard of re-gifting? By mid January, even sandwiching it with sweet ricotta topped with berry sauce brings on an urge to donate the lot to charity.

A straw poll on the online Friends of Italy group suggested most of the those who responded to my “Do you like panettone” question were big fans. And they like it unadulterated. Only a few preferred pan d’oro. (Must be that nasty mass-produced citrus peel in panettone – causes angst every time!)

Italy still loves them and sales in 2013 were expected to better those of previous years. Despite the country’s longest recession in 60 years, cash-strapped Italians refused to give up their expensive cakes baked in upmarket pasticcerie. I guess they have to keep buying it to justify the annual film industry namesake ‘Cinepanettoni’ – Italian movies made specifically for the festive season and derided by critics as plotless, vulgar comedies rich with sexual innuendo. (Damn … so many years of working at the Sydney Film Festival … so many lost opportunities in suggesting these films be programmed.)

It seems Australians can’t get enough either. A delicatessen in Sydney’s inner-west has a panettone display that gets bolder each year. The handful on sale in early December swells to a pre-Christmas Wall of Panettoni, where a heady choice of brands is stacked like concrete blocks, dwarfing all other food aisles.

I don’t remember eating panettone as a child. My mother and her friends baked traditional north-eastern Italian festive cakes, filled with raisins, nuts and chocolate and rolled up strudel-style. It’s only in the last 15 or so years that my family embraced the panettone, the long hours of preparation and baking becoming less attractive to my mother.

panettone gelato and berry sorbet

So, with panettone ennui fast approaching, I’m happy to have found a clever way of disguising it. After sampling some lovely panettone gelato at Cremeria De Luca in Sydney last week  I  tried a recipe for  ‘no-churn’ panettone gelato adapting it to include my own candied citron and Mandarinetto liqueur (included in previous posts). I look forward to a new tradition. Happy 2014!

No-churn Panettone Gelato (translated from the original Italian recipe) http://www.flickr.com/photos/plumdumplings/11768965403/

Related posts: 

Candied citron peel – http://tinyurl.com/mq2t6fg

Mandarinetto liqueur – http://tinyurl.com/k2redeq


  1. I wrote a panettone into my new novel The Midnight Pianist. I think it’s delicious. My character Emilia calls it Christmas bread.

    • Hi Julia, sounds great. Good luck with the new novel. Hope it’s successful.

  2. If you get tired of it, you can use it to make French Toast.

    • Hi Jovina, yes, that was a recommendation from one of the online replies from my straw poll. I’ll give it a go!

  3. Panettone and cats – you can’t get more Italian than that! :D We have Panettone for breakfast every Christmas morning and like you I like it best toasted with butter. xx

    • Hi Zoe, I agree – panettone with butter is great. And our cat prefers it with butter too – gobbles it up.

  4. I’ve had it turned into bread and butter pudding – delicious. Love the cat!

    • So, that’s another recommendation for B&B pudding. Thanks for the cat compliments. Must do a follow-up post with the cat – Mikilino – eating the B&B pudding.

  5. Ambra, I could SMELL this post! Mmmmm. The aroma of panettone browning in the toaster blends perfectly with that of freshly made coffee. One Christmas I used it for bread and butter pudding. Delicious!

    • Hey Lyndal, thanks and yes I have to agree that the aroma is great – sometimes more inviting than the actual panettone. I’ve never tried it for B&B pudding, but will do so.

  6. Thea used it in a ‘summer pudding artic bombe’ our term for a mixed frozen dessert. Was abfab!
    Jill x

    • Sounds good Jill. With all these suggestions, I can feel a ‘101 Ways with Leftover Panettone’ book coming up.

  7. January is panettone month at ours with you-know-who having raided all the post-Xmas bargain bins. I like the idea of using it for bread and butter pudding, but LOVE it toasted with a dollop of French vanilla icecream. A thought though – how many preservatives must be included for them to last so damn long? And at what stage can we take one out and kick it around the back yard like a soccer ball? I may but the latter to the test! Love the blog, A

    • Can’t comment on panettone preservatives Augie, but mamma has one in the cupboard with a use-by date of 2056. And I look forward to the soccer game in your backyard, or volleyball. Or BOCCE. Yes, the panettone olympics.

  8. Love Panettone and love the pic of your cat enjoying it too! (also love your blog!!)


    • Hey Verena. Thanks from my cat (and me). Hope you’re well. Are you still working at PPT? (A few changes there I hear.)

  9. Feel free to re-gift it to me, next year. Have (embarrassingly) to admit that i’ve never – ever – tried panettone. Unlike your cat. Love the pic – great post (as always).

    • Well, if you hurry to one of the large Italian delis in the innerwest, you might still pick up a post-Xmas panettone bargain. Start 2014 with an adventure!

  10. Love your pics and story! I always buy after Christmas and make version of bread and butter pudding

    • thanks Dianne. A few people have recommended B&B pudding made with panettone. Must try it.

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