Pandolce, the symbol of the Genoese wealth!

Pandolce is an XVI century Genoese Christmas cake. It is a fundamental dish and without it, in Liguria, you can’t say you’ve feasted Christmas.


According to a legend, it was the doge Andrea Doria of the Republic of Genoa who in ‘500 banished a competition. It was a contest among the master pastry chefs of Genoa for a sweet representative of the wealth of Genoa. At the same time, the sweet had to be nutritious, had a long-lasting and be suitable for long trips by sea.


The ancient tradition says that the cake should be brought to the Christmas table by the youngest of the house and served with a sprig of laurel in the middle (a symbol of luck and well-being). As soon as it is brought by the young man, it should be hand over to the elder of the house to be cut and distributed. What is more, a slice should be kept for the first poor man who could ring at the door.


  • Pandolce means sweet bread.
  • In the past pandolce was appreciated by the Ligurian sailors for its long conservation. In fact, even nowadays, if well prepared and kept in a cellophane bag after opening it can keep the fragrance for two weeks.
  • Traditional pandolce includes pine nuts as a major ingredient and uses yeast as its raising agent, which requires several hours to rise, like bread. This original recipe is now known as pandolce alto, whilst a simpler variant which uses baking powder is known as pandolce basso. Below I wrote the recipes of both.
  • Every Ligurian pastry shop has its own recipe for the preparation of the pandolce, always respecting the tradition.
  • All the pictures you can see here were made in Pasticceria Barbieri in Chiavari. They were preparing pandolce alto, that is much more difficult and much longer to prepare (about 24h)!

Ingredients pandolce alto

  • 1 kilo of flour,
  • 35 grams of brewer’s yeast,
  • 350 grams of butter,
  • 300 grams of sugar,
  • 100 grams of pine nuts,
  • 100 grams of candied shredded into small pieces,
  • 600 grams of raisins,
  • 40 grams of orange blossom water,
  • a pinch of fennel seeds
  • a pinch of salt

Recipe pandolce alto

Prepare a very soft dough using 500 grams of flour and the yeast dissolved in warm water, let it rise after you’ve placed it in the bowl. After about two/four hours the dough should be softly swollen. Add the rest of the flour, the orange flower water, the melted butter in a bain-marie and the sugar, stirring for about half an hour. Add candied fruit, pine nuts and raisins and mix them well. Divide the dough into two or three parts and put them to rise in the tubs for about four/six hours (it has to double its size). Before baking at 180 degrees, make three cuts together on the top to form a triangle, the so-called priest’s hat. After about an hour the cake will have assumed the characteristic brown colour and it is ready!



Ingredients of pandolce basso

  • 300 grams of flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 150 g butter
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 60 g pine nuts
  • 1 sachet of baking powder
  • a dash of fennel seeds
  • 4 – 5 drops of vanilla and orange aromas
  • 250 g raisins
  • 150 g candied fruit
  •  some milk (optional)

Recipe of pandolce basso

In a bowl, mix butter, sugar and two eggs. When they are well mixed and have a creamy consistency, add fennel seeds and flour that has been mixed with baking powder. Mix again, until all ingredients are well combined. If the dough has clumps, you can add some milk. Then place the dough on the pastry board and add the candied fruit. When they are well mixed with the dough, add raisins and 50 grams of pine nuts (leave 10 grams for adding at the end). Knead the dough with all the ingredients so that it will get a ball shape – the dough must be smooth. Put the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper and level the “dough ball” so that it has a height of approx. 3 cm. Add the remaining 10 grams of pine nuts. Bake in a preheated oven to 160ΒΊ for 45 minutes. The dough is ready when it takes its characteristic, flushed colour.


Buon Appetito!


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