Knowing how to make a Colomba Pasquale will help you bring a piece of Italian tradition into your home during Easter time. A custom from Italy to share with your beloved relatives and friends.
I perfectly know that Colomba Pasquale is not a Tuscan dessert. Colomba is part of the Italian Easter Traditions. But if you are visiting Tuscany during Easter time, you will see Colomba everywhere. In the window of bakeries, and grocery stores. Sometimes also served in some restaurants. But it will certainly not be missing from the tables of Italian families.
What is the Colomba Pasquale?
However, what is a Colomba Pasquale? We already said that it is a cake. Literally, it means Easter Dove. It takes the name from its shape that has been given for the relation with Easter celebrations. And it is really popular among desserts of Italian tradition. Have you already heard about Panettone? Well, Colomba Pasquale is the Easter sister of it, almost!
If you have tried Colomba and like it, as long as you are in Italy, you can eat as much as you want. But when you return home? It is not so common finding this cake abroad. Perhaps, you will find Colomba in some stores that sell Italian products. But my advice is to avoid commercial versions. Mostly because of their artificial taste. And, as you already know, they are full of preservatives.
Instead, you should try to bake it. This recipe is written to help you to prepare your homemade Colomba. I know, it is a calorie bomb (478 kcal), but just a slice of Colomba every Easter won’t be that bad.
The origins of the Colomba Pasquale
The legend of King Alboino
This legend dates back to the early Middle Ages in Lombardy, a region in northern Italy. This is what Motta, a famous Italian brand, claims. They have a high regard for making the Colomba Pasquale so popular in Italy.
The story is about King Alboino. In 572 BC, after three years of siege, he finally entered Pavia on the day before Easter. An old baker offered his Majesty a strange dessert in the shape of a dove. He wanted to pacify the king’s anger, explaining that his gift was a symbol of peace during Easter. The cake smelled of honey and baking. It was so good and inviting that the king accepted with a promise of peace.
The legend of Queen Teodolinda and the Irish Abbot
Another legend has the Colomba Pasquale connected with the Lombard Queen Teodolinda and the Irish holy abbot St. Columbanus.
The abbot arrived in the city, around 612 BC. The Lombard Kings invited him and his monks for a sumptuous meal. Despite all the game dishes of the banquet, Saint Columbanus and his monks rejected those rich meats. These were days of penance. It was a time of Lent.
Queen Theodolinda was offended not understanding the reason for the refusal. The abbot turned to diplomacy to resolve this unpleasant situation. He said they would eat those succulent dishes only after blessing them. The abbot raised his right hand in a sign of the cross, turning all the plates into doves of white bread. As white as their monastic robes.
The prodigy so impressed the Queen that she understood the abbot’s sanctity. And she decided to give the monks the land of Bobbio, where they founded the Abbey of St. Columba. The white dove is also the iconographic symbol of the saint and is always depicted on his shoulder.
The recent story of Colomba Pasquale recipe
It was during the 1930s that Angelo Motta, a baker from Milan, came up with the idea of making Colomba the cake that everyone should consume during Easter. He started using an old recipe for the dessert.
The baker was already making another dessert of the Christmas tradition, the Panettone.
He used the same machinery, and a similar recipe to create the new cake. Then, he sent a sample to famous writers and journalists, to get their impressions on the dessert.
The Colomba Pasquale was a hige success. Year by year, it became part of the Italian traditions and a sign of peace and spring.
The recipe of the Italian Colomba Pasquale
Colomba Pasquale recipe
- 1 Kneading Machine
Colomba Pasquale Ingredients
- 3,5 cup Manitoba flour
- 1/2 cup Warm water
- 2 big eggs
- 2 oz milk
- 5 oz butter room temperature
- 3 oz candied orange or citron
- ¾ oz brewer’s yeast fresh
- 5 oz white caster sugar
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 2 spoon Marsala wine
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 orange zest
- 1 vanilla bean with seeds
- 1¼ oz egg whites
- 3 oz white caster sugar
- ¾ oz almond not peeled
- 1 spoon Amaretto liquor (optional)
- Sugar grains
- Entire almonds to decorate
- Dilute brewer's yeast in 2 oz. of warm milk. Add 2 oz. of Manitoba flour and knead. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for at least 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Deflate the first risen dough by mixing it with a spatula. Add 1/2 cup warm water and 4 oz Manitoba flour. Mix well, cover and let rise for another hour in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Place the risen dough in a mixing bowl. Add 2 oz. sugar and 5 oz. flour. Turn on the mixer and string the dough together with the dough hook. Knead for 3 min. Then gradually add 2 oz of soft cubed butter. Knead the dough on the dough hook and knead until the dough is elastic. Place in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in volume for at least 1 hour / 1 1/2 hours.
- Once risen, place the dough in the bowl of the mixer along with 9 oz of Manitoba flour and the remaining sugar (4 oz). Start the mixer and let the dough to absorb the powders in the mixture. Then add one at a time, the shelled whole eggs. Wait for the first to be absorbed by the dough before adding the second. Meanwhile, in a bowl prepare the flavoring by mixing the sweet wine, lemon, and orange zest, along with the seeds of a vanilla pod.
- Now add the remaining butter (4 oz at room temperature) chopped a little at a time. Finally, add the salt and spices. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough strings the hook and looks soft and elastic. Then place in a bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour until doubled.
- Turn the risen dough out onto a work surface and roll it out with your hands. Spread the candied fruit over the dough and start working vigorously to distribute the candies throughout the dough. Form into a ball, place in a bowl, and let rise covered for at least 1 hour until doubled.
- Place the risen dough on a work surface and cut it in half. Cut one of the halves in half again and create 3 sausages: a larger one (the body of the Easter Dove) and 2 smaller ones (the wings).
- Place the 3 parts in a 2.2-lb. Colomba mold. Cover and let the Colomba rise until there is 0 25⁄32 in the dough to reach the edge of the mold.
Prepare the icing
- In a mixer, blend the sugar with the almonds until a fine powder is obtained. Whip the egg whites and slowly add the resulting powder. Whip the mixture with a whisk for 5 minutes. Finally, add the Amaretto liqueur and mix.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C in static mode. Once the dough has risen, spread the surface of the Colomba with the egg white frosting base. Decorate with almonds and granulated sugar.
- Bake in a hot oven and, during the first 20 minutes of baking, every 5 minutes, open the oven door for a few seconds to let steam escape. Then, continue baking for another 20 minutes by lowering the temperature to 160°C.
- Once baked let the Colomba cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before to cut and eat it.
- Colomba retains its softness for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight plastic bag.
Don’t you have a mold for Colomba Pasquale? No problem! Vittorio, an Italian living in California, has made a video in which he shows how to make your homemade mold. Although you speak a little Italian, you can simply watch it and repeat his movements.
I would love it if you could share with us your impressions of this cake once you have made it at home. You can leave a comment in the space below this article.
Happy Easter everybody! If you like this recipe, pin it on your Pinterest dashboard!
3 thoughts on “The Recipe of the Italian Colomba Pasquale”
Happy Easter Nicola! Italian food, yum, Desserts yum! This looks so good. Not sure how I stumbled across this specific blog but what an interesting story about how it became a dove shape. Thanks for sharing! Mark
Hello Mark, thank you for your comment. I hope you had a nice Easter holiday with your beloved. I agree with you the story of how it became a dove shape is really fascinating. And the Colomba homemade is even more good!
Thanks for posting this recipe. You may want to change the dates of its origination as Easter was not celebrated in 572BC. In fact, no Christian holidays were celebrated before the birth of Christ.