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Panone recipe: the Christmas cake of Bologna

Panone: the Christmas cake of Bologna

Panone and Certosino are the typically baked cakes of the Bologna Christmas tradition.
Similar yet different.

Both recipes belong to the typical Northern European tradition of Christmas cakes made with dried and candied fruit.

Again, both have a rich and somewhat old-fashioned taste but, unlike what you might imagine, also a contemporary flavor.

In these recipes, you won’t find any eggs or butter.
And the taste is not sugary but rich in flavor and spice.

Panone recipe: the Christmas cake of Bologna

The traditional Bolognese Panone

The name Panone means big bread. And it was, and still, today is a sweet, big bread.
It was the peasant version of the Certusino cake.

The Carthusian loaf originated within the walls of the Certosa Abbey in Bologna, where the monks had precious ingredients such as candied fruit and spices.

It is no coincidence that the Certosino was the spiced cake loved by the Popes of Rome.
On the contrary, there was no candied fruit in the ancient Bolognese Panone dough.
Then, over time, in-home kitchens, there was contamination between the two recipes, and after the Second World War, some people started to enrich the Panone with the ingredients of the Certosino.

Another recent mutation of the recipe is the version with eggs.

But, again, as with the Certosino, there were no eggs in the oldest Panone recipe. Both do not need this ingredient to keep the others together.
Honey and jam act as the glue.

Dorina’s recipe 

When I met Dorina, she was already a very old lady. I don’t know how old she was.
All I know is that she looked like a fairy godmother from a fairy tale.

She was round and petite, with a bunch of silver hair tied back on her head.
She had piercing blue eyes and wore an immaculate white coat. I perfectly remember her scent of bread and good things.

She and her husband Nino were bakers and ran the bakery with Eliseo, Dorina’s brother.
An even older gentleman, he wore a blue apron and looked like a drop of water like the character created by the Italian cartoonist Altan.

Crossing the threshold of their bakery, which is now a well-known ice-cream shop in the city, was like entering a zirudella (story) with a Bolognese flavor. They expressed a Bolognese spirit and way of life that is disappearing.

Just think, Nino and Dorina didn’t take the motorway to visit a sister of her who lived in Milan but traveled from Bologna and Milan – and back – along the Via Emilia. By Fiat, of course.

Panone: the Christmas cake of Bologna

Back to the Panone

I used to ask Dorina a lot of questions. Before closing the bakery, she left me a large glass and metal jar for the biscuits and some recipes. Of course, she didn’t give me the weight of the individual ingredients, but it was a clue to get to work.

As for Panone, I remember her saying that it was made with honey, but she knew that some people used Saba.

I would ask her every time, year after year: “What about you, Dorina? What do you use?”

She lowered her glasses to look at me and replied ‘honey’ but accompanied her answer with a mischievous smile. And this year, when I used saba for the first time, but also balsamic vinegar, I think I can say that she probably used saba too.

Those who have tasted it say it’s my best Panone ever.
But don’t worry, use honey or balsamic if you don’t have saba.

In the method, find the right amount, to me, of honey, saba, or balsamic you need.
You can try what you prefer (the most used ingredient, also historically, is honey).

One last kitchen note

Many people think it is too sweet.
Wrong. The Panone’s prevailing scent and flavor are those of chocolate, that when cut, looks like a dark, compact, moist doughnut, rich in almonds and chocolate chopped with a knife.

Panone is traditionally rectangular. But I tried the loaf mold, and I like it cut into thin slices.

Like the Certosino cake, Panone is a cake that can be kept fresh for a long time, out of the fridge. Store it wrapped in foil in a metal box.


Buona cucina bolognese, Monica

Certosino cake

HERE you can read the recipe and history of the Certosino of Bologna.
A masterpiece among the cakes of the gastronomic culture of the city for centuries.

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Panone: the Christmas cake of Bologna

Panone from Bologna

Panone is a typical Christmas cake from Bologna. It is without eggs and butter.
Course Cupboard cakes
Cuisine Bolognese
Keyword #Bologna, #cake, #chocolate, #christmas, #driedfruit, #noeggs
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings 6 serves


  • for one Panone, round mold 24 cm diameter/ or 2 round molds 12 cm diameter / or 2 rectangular molds 19x12cm


  • 60 g of raisins
  • 90 g of whole, peeled almonds
  • 20 g of hazelnuts
  • 20 g of pine nuts
  • 20 g of walnut kernels
  • 60 g of dried figs
  • 50 g of dark chocolate or dark chocolate drops
  • 250 g of 00 flour
  • 40 g of bitter cocoa
  • 12 g of baking powder for cake
  • a pinch of salt
  • 80 g of honey
  • 130 g of plum jam or sweet Bolognese mustard
  • 150 g of white wine
  • 100 ml of warm water
  • 1/2 lemon grated zest optional


  • Place raisins in a bowl, cover with hot water, and let soften for 10 minutes.
  • Drain the water, dry the raisins on kitchen paper, and set aside.
  • In a pan, toast almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and walnuts for one minute, then set aside about ten almonds and six walnut kernels for decoration.
  • Chop almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, dried figs, and chocolate coarsely with a knife.
  • Preheat the oven to 170C degrees (338F).
  • In a bowl, also the one in the planetary mixer, pour flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. And mix.
  • Knead the dough until well blended with a spoon or into the planetary mixer. The dough is sticky and firm. It is ok, do not add more liquid.
  • Grease themold(s) with some olive oil, pour in the dough, and decorate the surface with whole almonds and walnut kernels.
  • Bake in preheated oven for one hour. Test with a toothpick; when it comes out dry, the Panone is ready.
  • Let cool for about 10 minutes before brushing with honey. Turn it fluid on the stove or in the microwave.
  • If you use a rectangular mold, cut the cake into 2 or 4 parts to make gifts or share with friends and family.
  • Store the Panone in the pantry wrapped in plastic film for up to a month.

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