Colomba is an Italian sweet cake that has many similar characteristics to its Christmas equivalent, the Panettone. It often contains dried fruits and is decorated with sugar and almonds. Making Colomba requires a great deal of patience as it needs to rise for several hours and can take an entire day to complete.
It often contains dried fruits and is decorated with sugar and almonds. Making Colomba requires a great deal of patience as it needs to rise for several hours and can take an entire day to complete.
There are many conﬂicting stories about where and how this cake originated. According to one legend, it was given to the King of the Longobards, Alboino, during the sixth century. It is believed that while the King was in conﬂict with the city of Pavia, the cake was offered to him as a peace offering – however, it was in the shape of a ring.
Another belief is that the story of the Colomba began in the 12th century when the city of Milan defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. It is said that upon his defeat, two doves appeared over the city as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and the Colomba was created to honour this victory. What can be said with a great deal of certainty, however, is that the cake was made commercially popular thanks to Milanese baker, Angelo Motta, founder of the Motta food company. He is credited with the commercialisation of both the Panettone and the Colomba during the beginning of the 20th century.
And, to this day, Motta remains one of the most popular Colomba brands in the world.
Chef Flavio Tosolini of Fourth Village Providore in Mosman, New South Wales, shares his own Colomba recipe.
For the cake
500g ‘00’ flour
3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks
100g candied orange
50g candied cedar
Zest of 1 orange and one lemon
A few drops of vanilla essence
For the frosting
100g almond flour
50g sugar grit
100g vanilla icing sugar
50g whole almonds
3 egg whites
Colomba is made by creating several types of dough. Although the recipe appears quite long, it is relatively uncomplicated to make.
Mix 100g of ‘00’ flour with a little milk and yeast. Cover with a cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Add another 100g of the flour and the remaining milk to the mixture and combine. Cover with a cloth and allow to rest for another 30 minutes in a warm place.
Add 150g of flour, 60g of sugar and 80g of butter. Mix slowly to form a smooth paste.
Cover and allow to rest for around 2 hours in a warm place.
Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time. Start with the remaining flour and butter, mixing until the butter is completely combined. Add a pinch of salt, the remaining sugar, vanilla, citrus zest and the honey.
Next, add the eggs one at a time, beginning with the egg yolks. Be sure to properly mix the ingredients into the dough and knead. If the dough feels too sticky, add a spoonful of flour.
Now, add the candied fruit. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 8 hours. Make sure the dough stays covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Knead the dough one last time. Put it into the baking mould and allow to rise for a further 6 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. It will be used to cover the Colomba just before baking. Mix the almonds and flour with the icing sugar and the 3 egg whites until it thickens. Cover the Colomba with this frosting mixture, then sprinkle with sugar grit and unpeeled almonds.
Preheat the over to 200°C and bake the Colomba for 10 minutes. Cover the Colomba with a sheet of baking paper to protect the frosting, then reduce the temperature to 180°C and bake for another 30 minutes.
Once the Colomba has cooled, sprinkle with some icing sugar.