What Is Panettone? Is It More Than Fruit Cake?

The holidays are a time to celebrate. And what better way to celebrate than by overeating? When I think of stuffing my face during the holiday season, I immediately think of Christmas cookies, eggnog, and tamales. But what about those unpronounceable boxed Italian cakes that show up all over grocery stores and crowding the aisles at Trader Joe’s? Those things are panettone. What is panettone? Is panettone fruit cake? What does panettone taste like? Let’s dive deep into some panettone knowledge!

How do you pronounce panettone?

Here’s how to pronounce panettone:  pa-nuh-TOW-nay. 

What is panettone?

Panettone is a sweet Italian bread that’s typically eaten around the holiday season. It may have fruit in it (or chocolate or cream or booze) and people eat panettone in wedges like a cake, but it’s not really a fruit cake. It’s a bread. It’s made like a bread and in Italy, where it originated, it’s referred to as a bread, so we’re calling it a bread, not a fruit cake. 

Panettone originally comes from Northern Italy, around Milan, but it is now popular all over the country and even beyond Italy’s borders. Panettone is extremely popular across South America and a lot of the panettone we see in U.S. grocery stores actually comes from Brazil. Around 7,100 tons of panettone is made each year in Italy. They export around ten percent of that.

What’s in panettone bread?

Panettone is a leavened bread. It has a rich sourdough base of eggs, sugar, butter, and dried fruit. A typical panettone includes pieces of oranges, lemon zest, and raisins. But you can also find it chocolate covered, with chocolate chips, or cream filled. People have been going wild on their panettones, making some pretty unique concoctions. 

What does panettone taste like?

Plain panettone tastes rich and buttery. But, as mentioned above, there’s a lot you can do with that base. Sometimes there will be citrusy overtones because it’s a limoncello panettone. Sometimes it will have ribbons of chocolate. Most times it will be studded with sweet, dried fruit. 

How to cut panettone?

Now, a lot of folks slice their panettone like a cake, cutting a triangular slice. But, as the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to slice a panettone. Panettone already keeps for quite a long time—some folks stretch their Christmas panettone to New Year’s. To keep it fresh even longer, try slicing it down the middle. Then slice rectangular pieces from the middle of one of your two halves and smush the bread back together when you’re done. There’s less sliced panettone exposed to air that way.

How to eat panettone?

If you want to celebrate Italian style, slice yourself some panettone and pour yourself some Prosecco. But you can also take a thin slice and tear pieces off to dunk in milk or any other beverage of your choice. You can also toast a slice of panettone then spread some butter over it. You can even cook with your panettone, using it in a bread pudding recipe or making panettone French toast. My favorite way to eat panettone is fresh from the baker in Milan. I wish I was allowed back in Italy. 

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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