A Simple Buyer’s Guide to Italian Holiday Cakes

Hailing from Milan, the panettone is a renowned holiday bread. With a sweet, fruity flavour and distinctive dome shape, this Italian treasure is a holiday must-have for any festive occasion.

Whether looking for the perfect gift, or something to decorate your family’s table this season, discover how to purchase the best panettone or pandoro to please everyone on your list.


There has never been a better time for Canadians to enjoy a variety of truly Italian holiday cakes, with dozens of iconic brands available in grocery stores, especially during the holiday season. Each one is made by traditional producers sourcing local ingredients from all over Italy: amarena cherry, fig, apricot, wild berry, chestnut, hazelnut, almond, pistachio, Moscato wine … the list goes on. To help you take advantage of this incredible selection, here are a few practical tips.

Let’s start with the basics.
When you’re shopping, you will see two different types of authentic Italian cakes: panettone and pandoro. Panettone, hailing from Milan, is a classic confection with candied fruit (like lemon and orange) and/or raisins. Pandoro, while also made from a rich, eggy dough, hails from Verona and is lighter in weight, texture and taste. (A key difference between the two is that pandoro does not contain any candied fruits.)

Shop for the real thing.
Check that the product is made in Italy and specifically labelled “panettone” or “pandoro”—not “dolce natalizio”, “prodotto da forno” or any other name. To use the proper name on their packaging, Italian producers must adhere to strict regulations designed to protect traditional production methods, recipes and ingredients. For example, panettone must contain 20% fruit and use fresh eggs and real butter.

Read the label carefully.
Italian producers take food labelling very seriously and generally speaking, you’ll typically find more information on their packaging. Things like expiration dates, nutritional information, and the exact address of the producer (not just the distributor) are all mandatory.

Look for the standard-sized (and shaped) cakes.
The most common panettone weighs in between 750g and 1 kg in size, which is your safest bet when looking to purchase the authentic product. Extra-large or extra-small variations run a higher risk of being over-cooked or unevenly cooked. And pandoro is traditionally star-shaped, and often dusted with powdered sugar.

Have you chosen a dessert to serve this Christmas? Any advice you’d like to share or questions you’d like to ask. Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #MadeInItaly to share your thoughts about authentic Italian products.

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