Panettone (pronounced /ˌpænɪˈtni/;[1][2][3] Italian pronunciation: [panetˈtoːne]) is an Italian type of sweet bread originally from Milan (in the local Milanese dialect it is called panetton, pronounced [paneˈtũː]),[4] usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year in Western, Southern, and Southeastern Europe as well as in Latin America, the Horn of Africa,[5] Australia, and to a lesser extent in former French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies.

Panettone - Nicolettone 2017 - IMG 7085 (31752542285).jpg
Place of originItaly
Region or stateMilan
Main ingredientsFlour, candied fruits, raisins

It has a cupola shape, which extends from a cylindrical base and is usually about 12–15 cm high for a panettone weighing 1 kg. Other bases may be used, such as an octagon, or a frustum with a star section shape more common to pandoro. It is made during a long process that involves curing the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. Many other variations are available such as plain or with chocolate. It is served in wedge shapes, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Asti or Moscato d'Asti. In some regions of Italy, it is served with crema di mascarpone, a cream made from mascarpone, eggs, sometimes dried or candied fruits, and typically a sweet liqueur such as amaretto; if mascarpone cheese is unavailable, zabaione is sometimes used as a substitute.

Efforts are under way to obtain Protected Designation of Origin and Denominazione di origine controllata status for this product, but these have not yet been successful.[6] Former Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro was known to be looking at ways to protect genuine Italian cakes from growing competition in South America, and exploring whether action could be taken at the World Trade Organization.


a typical panettone

In Italy, panettone comes with an often varied history, but one that invariably states that its birthplace was Milan. The word "panettone" derives from the Italian word "panetto", a small loaf cake. The augmentative Italian suffix "-one" changes the meaning to "large cake".

The origins of this cake appear to be ancient, dating back to the Roman Empire, when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened cake with honey.[7]

Throughout the ages, this "tall, leavened fruitcake" makes cameo appearances in the arts: It is shown in a sixteenth-century painting[citation needed] by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and is possibly mentioned in a contemporary recipe book written by Italian Bartolomeo Scappi, personal chef to popes and emperors during the time of Charles V. The first recorded association of panettone with Christmas can be found in the Italian writings of 18th century illuminist Pietro Verri. He refers to it as "Pan de Ton" (luxury bread).[8]


Though the etymology of the word 'panettone' is rather mundane, three more complex and fanciful folk etymologies have arisen.[9] It is also thought that one of the ecclesiastical brothers, Fr. Antonio, who always wore the proper hat, was fond of this "pane". The ecclesiastical hat Pane Tone was later adopted as the shape, which gave rise to Panettone. This derivation received credence and acceptability at the turn of the century, and is likely to be the forerunner of the more recent Christmas cake.[citation needed] Gianrian Carli in "Il Caffè" makes passing reference to panettone in 1850 in discussion with Pietro Verri and alludes to a clerical hat.

One theory suggests that the word derives from the Milanese, "pan del ton", meaning "cake of luxury".

20th centuryEdit

Homemade panettone

In the early 20th century, two enterprising Milanese bakers began to produce panettone in large quantities for the rest of Italy. In 1919, Angelo Motta started producing his eponymous brand of cakes. It was also Motta who revolutionised the traditional panettone by giving it its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times, for almost 20 hours, before cooking, giving it its now-familiar light texture. The recipe was adapted shortly after by another baker, Gioacchino Alemagna, around 1925, who also gave his name to a popular brand that still exists today.[citation needed] The stiff competition between the two that then ensued led to industrial production of the cake. Nestlé took over the brands together in the late 1990s, but Bauli,[10] an Italian bakery company based in Verona, has acquired Motta and Alemagna from Nestlé.[11]

By the end of World War II, panettone was cheap enough for anyone and soon became the country's leading Christmas sweet. Lombard immigrants to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and Brazil also brought their love of panettone, and panettone is enjoyed for Christmas with hot cocoa or liquor during the holiday season, which became a mainstream tradition in those countries. In some places, it replaces the king cake.

Panettone is widely available in South America, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile (see: Pan de Pascua), Ecuador, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. It is known in Spanish as panetón or pan dulce, and as panetone in Brazilian Portuguese. Peru's Antonio D'Onofrio, son of immigrants hailing from Caserta, Italy, spawned his own brand using a modified form of the Alemagna formula (e.g., candied papaya is used instead of candied citron and lemon, as these fruits are not available in Peru), which he licensed along with the packaging style. This brand is now also owned by Nestlé and exported throughout South America. In recent years, Brazilian panetone have increased in quality and in popularity due to their low cost and abundance.

Italian food manufacturing companies and bakeries produce 117 million panettone and pandoro cakes every Christmas, collectively worth 579 million euros.[12] There is an event held in Milan since 2013 that awards the Best Traditional Panettone of Italy. In 2016, the prize was awarded to Giuseppe Zippo, from Salento.

Panettone is popular within Italian communities around the world, and can commonly be found in Italian grocery stores in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""Panettone" in the American Heritage Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2017-02-05. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  2. ^ "Panettone" in the Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ "Panettone" in Merriam–Webster
  4. ^ Cherubini, Francesco (1841) Vocabolario milanese-italiano, Vol. 3, p. 164.
  5. ^ "Christmas in Eritrea".
  6. ^ "EU agricultural product quality policy". Retrieved 6 December 2008.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Francesca,Brzzone (2016-12-22). "The – buttery and delicious – history of panettone, Italy's own Christmas cake". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  8. ^ Dolce Jasmine (2017-11-18), Panettone: What you should know (ingredients, calories and origin), retrieved 2017-11-18
  9. ^ "history of panettone, historia del pan dulce, panetón, traditions, christmas season, tradiciones, navidad, om personal, ingles gratis on line". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
  10. ^ Saatchi. "Bauli: pandoro, panettone, colomba, dolci a lievitazione naturale, merende, cioccolato". Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  11. ^ Shaun Weston (1 August 2009). "News | Bauli acquires Motta and Alemagna from Nestlé". Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  12. ^ Pomeroy, Robin (2007-12-12). "Panettone makers want to keep Christmas cake Italian". Reuters. Retrieved 6 December 2008.