Italian Easter cake Colomba: origins and curiosities

Italian Easter cake Colomba: origins and curiosities

Mar 30, 2022Ana Markovic

One of the most representative sweets of Italian Easter is undoubtedly the Colomba. Soft and sugary, with lots of icing and candied fruits, it's a real treat for the eyes and palate. It takes its name from its shape, which is precisely that of a dove (colomba in italian), a symbol of peace and prosperity, which is flanked by that of the Easter egg, which instead represents the Resurrection. 

The birth of the Easter Colomba has, like many famous recipes of Italian tradition, a legendary explanation and a historical one.

Colomba: origins and curiosities

The origins of Colomba: the legend

Legend has it that the origin of Colomba dates back to the Lombard era when in 527 AD, King Alboin was able to conquer the city of Pavia (located in Lombardy). The city's siege lasted about three years and ended just before the Easter period. To ingratiate itself to the new sovereign, the population gave him a sweet bread in the shape of a dove as a sign of peace. The sweet bread was so much appreciated that the king decided to spare the lives of the city's inhabitants. 

According to another version, to invent the Colomba would have been St. Columbanus, a famous Irish monk, who in 610 AD, was hosted at court by queen Teodolinda in Pavia, capital of the Lombard kingdom. The queen had a sumptuous banquet prepared with delicacies and game, but the monk refused because it was the period of Lent. However, in order not to offend the royalty, the saint decided to bless the food, which turned into doves of bread.

The modern Colomba

The Colomba that we know today, with icing and almonds, was born in 1930, in Milan, from the idea of Dino Villani, advertising director of a famous confectionery company. He decided to create a cake for Easter similar to the Christmas one, using the same ingredients and the same machinery, to avoid leaving the production at a standstill during springtime. He, therefore, invented a cake similar to Panettone but with the shape of a dove. And that is how the modern Colomba was born. 

A laborious preparation to exalt the taste

Ingredients are straightforward, but the procedure is laborious because it needs three doughs and three different leavening times. For the first dough are needed flour, water, milk, and yeast. Everything must be left to leaven for a couple of hours. Then it's time to prepare the second dough, during which flour, sugar, and butter will be added to the first one and left to leaven for an hour and a half. Finally, it's time to pass to the third dough. Ingredients to be added to the previous one are flour, butter, raisins, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and candied oranges, to be left to leaven for 16 hours. After this time, the dough is put in a dove-shaped mold, covered with the glaze, prepared with flour and cornstarch, egg white, brown sugar, and almonds. Garnish at the end with more almonds and granulated sugar, and finally bake in the oven.

The result is a delicious dessert. In addition to the classic one, today there are many versions, from chocolate to those with creams. 

If you don't want to try your hand at preparing this laborious dessert, we have a solution for you. In our Easter selection, we have collected 4 delicious variants: the traditional one with candied oranges, the one filled with pistachio cream and glazed with chocolate, one filled with limoncello cream, and one with dark chocolate chips.

What are you waiting for? Surprise your guests and try them all!

Traditional Colomba Colomba filled with pistachio cream and glazed with chocolate

Colomba filled with limoncello cream Colomba with dark chocolate chips

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