The other traditional Italian Christmas cake beside panettone, the pandoro is often considered a cheaper alternative of sort, but it is in fact an entirely different recipe. Like panettone, pandoro (whose name literally translates as ‘bread made of gold’) is a thrice-leavened cake – but this is where the similarities end.
Pandoro is in fact more closely related to actual bread, although it is strongly enriched with butter, vanilla and egg yolks. Its historical predecessor was called libum, and it was first recorded in ancient Roman times where honey was used instead of vanilla as a sweetener and the leavening was not so pronounced. The recipe was updated around the year 1200 in the area of Verona, where it became known as nadalin – and then again when the vanilla sticks became relatively common thanks to the Eastern trade routes coming through Venice.

The current form and shape of pandoro was however patented in 1894 by the Veronese baker Melegatti, with its now traditional shape of a truncated cone with a star-shaped section. The idea was a contemporary of the modern panettone recipe and they probably influenced each other, soon both becoming a Christmas tradition.

While pandoro can be eaten as it is (or topped with finely powdered sugar), most Italians use it as the foundation for more complex Christmas treats, usually serving it with sweet sauces or toppings such as dark chocolate and berries. The most used sauce has a mascarpone cheese base, which is frequently also used as a filling. Should you happen to be around the city of Verona during Christmas time, please take note however that most locals resent the adoption of pandoro as a national tradition, and shun it in favor of the traditional nadalin.