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

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 Small Cakes

Prep Time: 1 hr

Cook Time: 40 mins

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


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
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
1 Cup Honey
Colored Sprinkles


For the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and let sit overnight, covered, stirring occasionally.
For the dough, make a mound of 4 cups of the flour on a pastry board or counter.
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.)
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.
To make the cakes, covering the rest of the balls, take one and begin to run it through a pasta machine to flatten.
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.)
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.
Next using the pastry wheel, cut the strip of dough in half lengthwise into two ribbons about 2 1/2 inches wide.
On each half of the ribbon, sprinkle on some of the walnut, raisin mixture and fold to close.
Starting at one end, begin to roll up the dough into a coil, using toothpicks to support it as needed.
Continue until you have an 6 inch cake, and follow the same steps to use up all of the dough up in this manner. (See Photos Below.)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cakes on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
Melt the honey in a pot and brush each of the cakes lightly over the top.
Bake an additional 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with the candy sprinkles.
Let cool completely and then wrap in foil to store.
To serve, remove the toothpicks and cut into wedges.


15 Responses to “Italian Christmas Cake”

  1. 1
    Wendy Wise — December 2, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    This sounds delicious, I’ve never liked heavy Christmas cakes, must give this a try!


  2. 2
    Marie — December 2, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

    That truly is a work of art, so beautiful. I’ll have to try and make it, I’ve seen it before on your site and always admired it!


  3. 3
    Linda Nitti — November 23, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    I can remember my mom making this : )


  4. 4
    jessie — December 9, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

    when flattening dough, will a rolling pin work in place of a pasta machine?


    Deborah Reply:

    You can use a rolling pin but it is a little difficult as the dough needs to be very thin. Do let the dough relax for at least 30 minutes or more before you start rolling.


  5. 5
    Sharon — December 28, 2012 @ 1:38 am


    I was just wondering what type of white wine to use?

    Thank you


    Deborah Reply:

    Sharon, any white wine will work.


  6. 6
    Sharon — December 28, 2012 @ 1:43 am

    Also…how long should the strips be? Does 1 ball make 2 cakes…or do you coil 2 strips together to make one cake?


    Deborah Reply:

    Sharon, you can create smaller cakes by using just one strip, or by adding strips together make larger cakes.


  7. 7
    Sharon — December 31, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    Thank you for the reply Deborah!!!


  8. 8
    Skye's Bites — November 7, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

    Deborah, I came upon this recipe several years ago, around the time it was first published. This will be my 5th year of making them for my family. I use 1 1/2 times the ingredients which makes 24 approx 6″ cakes.

    This is one of my most beautiful looking, and (in my opinion) the best tasting holiday treat I make.

    While time consuming to make it’s my most rewarding cake. I love to give them as gifts.

    Thanks for your lovely site and all the delicious recipes. I’ve make quite a few.

    Peace, Skye


    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Skye, it wouldn’t be Christmas in my house if I didn’t make them.


  9. 9
    Terrie DeMaria — December 11, 2016 @ 10:17 am

    How long do these last if not frozen? And do you refrigerate? thanks
    I love your site!


  10. 10
    Jeff Allen — December 22, 2016 @ 11:07 am

    My mother and my father’s mother used to make Italian fig cookies at Christmas that were very complicated. It seemed like my Mom and Dad worked for days making those cookies. I might try your recipe as a base to make something that might have a similar taste but will be a little less complicated….substituting chopped figs for raisins, almonds and hazelnuts for the walnuts and blackberry brandy for the whiskey.
    I think I have enough time to get these done for Christmas!
    Thanks for the recipe.


  11. 11
    Joe Piccolo — January 5, 2017 @ 11:21 am

    Many thanks for posting this recepie.

    It’s a taste from my childhood. I remember my nona making these at Christmas.

    I made 24 this year and gave them as Christmas gifts.

    Many thanks



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