Italian Christmas Cake

Delicate coils of pastry surround raisins and walnuts in this traditional Calabrian treat called Pitta ‘mpigliata. This is my revised edition of this recipe. I received this recipe from my Mother-In-Law after enjoying it every year for Christmas, and I have been making it myself for the past 10 years for my family. Christmas just would not be the same if we did not have this cake to enjoy each year. I have revised this recipe many times since I first started to make it myself and this is the latest revision. Originally the recipe I was given was just too large so I cut the recipe in half which will still make 7 to 8 small cakes. I like to slice it into wedges for my cookie tray to offer to guests over the holidays..

Although it sounds complicated, once you get going it really isn’t difficult. I made my cakes early this year as I will be away the beginning of December and will freeze the cakes until I return just before the holidays. If you do plan to freeze your cakes, do not use the honey or sprinkles until the cakes are thawed as the sprinkles tend to melt when frozen and then are thawed. I use my Kitchen Aid table mixer with pasta roller attachment to make the dough which makes things much easier for me than rolling out the dough by hand. The amount of flour may need to be increased if needed. The dough should be a little softer than pasta dough, but not sticky.

Pastry Dough Cut Into Strips With Fluted Pastry Wheel

The Pastry Strips Are Filled And Folded, Then Rolled

Cake Is Secured With Toothpicks And Ready For The Oven

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

Italian Christmas Cake

It wouldn’t be Christmas in our house unless I had wedges of these cakes on my cookie tray.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 1 Pound Of Raisins
  • 1 Pound Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Whiskey
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
  • Juice Of 1 Orange
  • Dash Of Anisette

Dough:

  • 4 to 5 Cups All-Purpose Flour (Plus Additional For Rolling)
  • 3/4 Cup White Wine
  • 3 Eggs
  • Zest From 1 Lemon And 1 Orange
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • Toothpicks

Topping:

  • 1 Cup Honey
  • Colored Sprinkles

Directions:

  1. For the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and let sit overnight, covered, stirring occasionally.
  2. For the dough, make a mound of 4 cups of the flour on a pastry board or counter.
  3. Make a well in the center, and using a fork, begin to add in the remaining ingredients, mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ones by stirring with the fork until you have created a soft dough. (Add additional flour if the dough is still too sticky.)
  4. Knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes with a little additional flour as needed until the dough is smooth, then divide into 8 equal sized balls.
  5. To make the cakes, covering the rest of the balls, take one and begin to run it through a pasta machine to flatten.
  6. Continue to lightly flour and pass through increasingly narrow openings, until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. (I stop at number 3 to 4 on my roller attachment.)
  7. Place the dough strip on the counter, and using a scalloped pastry wheel, run it along the outside edges of each side of the dough.
  8. Next using the pastry wheel, cut the strip of dough in half lengthwise into two ribbons about 2 1/2 inches wide.
  9. On each half of the ribbon, sprinkle on some of the walnut, raisin mixture and fold to close.
  10. Starting at one end, begin to roll up the dough into a coil, using toothpicks to support it as needed.
  11. Continue until you have an 6 inch cake, and follow the same steps to use up all of the dough up in this manner. 
  12. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  13. Place the cakes on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned
  14. Melt the honey in a pot and brush each of the cakes lightly over the top.
  15. Bake an additional 5 minutes.
  16. Sprinkle with the candy sprinkles.
  17. Let cool completely and then wrap in foil to store.
  18. To serve, remove the toothpicks and cut into wedges.