Lurking in the Cupboard #8: Bomboniera with Bite

February 17, 2014

A decommissioned ashtray turns out to be anything but …

It’s been a while since I attended a wedding where bomboniere were given to guests. Even so, I doubt they’d look anything like this vintage gem once used as an ashtray by my father.  retro bomboniera

My late aunt and uncle’s choice of a German short-haired pointer* for their late 1950s’ wedding bomboniere is intruiging. Maybe handsome hunting dogs that are bold, boisterous, intelligent, affectionate and trainable were more fashionable in Italy than pastel tulle and ribbons. Perhaps it was their take on the sentiment attached to the traditional five sugared almonds in bomboniere: fertility, long life, health, wealth and happiness.

The giving of bomboniere (or ‘favours’) dates back to early European history when honey-coated almonds, dried fruits, aromatic seeds or pine nuts were given to guests by wealthy aristocrats to celebrate marriages, birthdays and christenings. Almonds later became the nuts of choice and sugarcoating them symbolized the bitterness of life and sweetness of love.

On the sightseeing list for my next trip to Italy is the Museum of Sugared Almond Art and Technology in Sulmona, the birthplace of sugared almonds. The town, 160 kms east of Rome, has been producing them since the 15th century.  Now popular at all manner of celebrations, they’re ‘confetti’ in Italian, ‘Jordan Almonds’ in the US, ‘koufeta’ in Greece and ‘mlabas’ in the Middle-East.  sugared almonds

How coincidental then that prior to Christmas I bought a sizeable bag of sugared almonds. I have no idea why. I threw them into the shopping trolley in the pre-Christmas madness just in case somebody dropped by. What? Who ‘drops by’ in the 21st century? Or was I expecting to conduct a mini wedding ceremony or impromptu christening at my place?

Really, I just fancied the pastel colours that reminded me of a recent post about tutti frutti.  

There’s really not much you can do with sugared almonds except suck the sugar off and bite into the nut. The inventors must have had a Plan B, but if so, it’s a secret. Why does covering a nut with pastel-coloured sugar render it unusable in cooking?

But something called Candy Cane Chocolate Bark turned up everywhere last Christmas and I was keen to try my version of this thin layer of chocolate covered with crushed candy canes.

I used this How to Make Chocolate Bark without a Recipe recipe and added a slurp of Amaretto …  Sugared Almond Liqueur Chocolate Bark was born.

Almond Liqueur Chocolate Bark

*Thanks to Twitter pal Rom @smartdoggus for dog breed identification


  1. I remember this. In my Italian family , it was the sugar coated almonds with a dish or cup, etc. at every wedding.
    That is interesting – I didn’t know they had a museum. Making bark was creative – gave those candies some taste.

    • Italy seems to have museums for just about everything. I certainly hope the sugared almond one I mentioned includes bomboniere displays too. Would be criminal if not.

  2. Brilliant use of those sugar coated almonds, Ambradambra! Avoiding these treats is something I do in the interests of retaining my own teeth for as long as possible. But your idea means that all the hard, dangerous work of cracking open the sugar coating and then the nut is already done. And the colours look great!

    • Thanks Lyndal. I used a wooden meat tenderising mallet for the sugared almond crushing, worked a treat. And I love that you don’t have to do the two minute suck before getting to the nut in the middle.

  3. I’d never come across bonboniere until I came to Sydney and saw all those wedding shops with their lacy baskets of almonds. Of course the French have them – dragees – and use them at weddings too but not in such a decorative way. Your recipe looks delicious and a guaranteed sugar rush!

  4. Ah yes, dragees. Tell me Colin, would those tiny multi-coloured Indian sweets (with maybe cumin seeds in the middle?) be considered dragees too?

  5. This looks fabulous and what a great idea for Christmas presents… I’ve never heard of Chocolate Bark but now I really want to make some…

    I also like your “lurking in the cupboard” idea – I have so many things I have forgotten about that need some creative thinking so thanks for the colourful nudge!

    • Chocolate Bark was new to me too but suddenly it was everywhere last Christmas. Google it and see. Would make great presents and the sky’s the limit re ingredients. Thanks for your kind comments.

  6. Thank you so much Ambra, see you monday for the round up!
    Carla Emilia

  7. I met my first Italian friend in primary school. During one after-school jaunt at her house we climbed the step ladder into the loft and stole a sugared or two out of each of the bomboniere – and there was a quite a collection in a basket – that her mother had stowed up there. I remember them tasting old & stale … which was our recompense, i suspect. I much prefer the idea of your pastel almond dotted chocolate bark … thanks for the trip down memory lane. A lovely post x

    • I can imagine stale sugared almonds would be quite horrid. I snuck a few while making the chocolate bark and it’s quite a thrill waiting for the sugared layer to melt before finding the lovely almond. Ah yes, took me back.

      • I remember we nearly broke our jaws on the old, stale ones we stole. But we still scoffed them. Child gluttons!

  8. I love Jordan Almonds but never see them in boxes anymore. They were a staple at movie theaters when I was young.

    • That’s interesting … sugared almonds at movie theatres – never seen that here in Australia. When I was writing that post, I started eating the almonds I’d bought in a delicatessen and I became quite addicted. Need more now!

  9. I broke a tooth on confetti at a family wedding in the 60s and learned my lesson – suck them and savour the sugary coating then appreciate the lovely roasted almond centre! Ha. Sulmona is a great little town in my beloved Abruzzo. Also the birthplace of Roman poet Ovid. It’s a fantastic base for the Majella National Park, Chieti, Vasto… I could go on.For all things Sulmona chat with Katy and Susanna at Welcome to Sulmona – what they don’t know isn’t worth knowing! Ciao for now! MLT

    • Ouch. I think Confetti should come with instructions for newbies! Sulmona sounds great and will definitely go on my bucket list as I haven’t really travelled much in that part of Italy. Thanks for the info about it. Ciao.

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