Italian Cakes & Dessert Recipes Italian Christmas Cookies & Recipes

BUCCELLATO: Sicilian Christmas Figs, Raisins & Almond Cake

Buccellato is an ancient baked cake consumed during Christmas time all over Sicily. Its name derives from the Latin civilization, where “buccellatum” was a kind of bread having the shape of a doughnut engraved along the edges, vaguely resembling the current Sicilian buccellato. In some areas buccellato is also called cudduredda, a Sicilian term of Greek origin which means “little crown”.

Buccellato is, in fact, a Sicilian short pastry doughnut decorated with candied fruit and stuffed with a rich filling of dried figs, raisins, almonds, orange peels and other ingredients which vary according to the area where it is prepared.


Almost any kind of nut can be used – almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or even pine nuts.


The cake can be frosted or simply glazed and decorated with candied fruits like the one shown here.


One thing is certain.


Buccellato is the timeless, quintessential Sicilian holiday cake.






For the Filling


  • peels of 2 fresh oranges
  • 1 lb. of dry figs stemmed and cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  • ½ lb. raisins
  • ¼ cup of bitter cocoa or equivalent bitter or semisweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon ground black  pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • red wine to cover ( over a pint)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (use a blender to chop)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla


For the Crust


  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 ½  cups of lard or vegetable shortening, or 3 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 8 cups of all purpose flour
  • 8 level teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon of salt
  • cold water if needed


For Garnish


  • Egg wash, (beat 2 eggs with 3 tablespoons of water)
  • Small confection of Nonpareils (tiny multicolored sugar balls)




The Filling


To ready the orange peels for the filling, rinse with cold water, dry and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

When cooled, cut them with scissors into very thin strips to resemble “angel’s hair”-capelli d’angelo.

In a large pot without a cover, at a medium heat place the figs, raisins, almonds, cocoa, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, 1 cup of sugar, orange peels and the red wine to cover the ingredients.

Simmer at a very low heat, stirring often.

Do not cover!

After 20 minutes stir in the vanilla and continue simmering until the wine is absorbed into the filling.

It takes about 45 minutes.

Mixture should be chunky.

Transfer into a large bowl to cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days until ready to use.


The Crust


Place in a pot the milk, sugar, honey and lard, shortening or butter and at a low heat warm the mixture, until the fat is melted. Cool it off.

Use a mixer or on a flat surface, mound the flour, mix in the baking powder and form a well.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and using your hands, start to blend the flour from the inside of the well and keep incorporating the flour into theliquid mixture. Mix thoroughly and bring the dough together to form a ball. If the dough is to dry, add a few drops of water to moisten.

Fold and press with the palm of your hands; if dough is sticky, add some more flour. Do not over mix.

When dough forms into a single mass, cover with a kitchen rag or plastic wrap, set aside, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Discard scraps and wash your hands and working surface.


The Buccellato


Prepare some cookie sheets by lightly greasing and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.


Retrieve dough from refrigerator, divide dough in 8 pieces (cut into 4 pieces and each piece in half); work one piece at a time, leaving remaining dough covered with a kitchen rag or plastic wrap.

Dust working surface with flour and place one piece of dough in center; fold and press with the palm of your hands a few times and roll it out into a cylinder shape (like a sausage) 15 inches in length. Than with the help of a rolling pin, flatten the pastry dough into about a 15 inch rectangle, 4 to 5 inches wide and about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Spoon out and place some filling in the center of the strip, leaving clear 1 inch on each side. Lift one side over the top of the filling, moisten the other side with water and roll over to completely enclose the fig mixture; if it opens, pinch dough to seal the roll.

Gently roll the bucceddatu back and forth to round it and place the sealed part on the bottom.

If pastry dough is too fragile spread it on parchment paper, so it will be easer to handle.


The Cookies

Prepare the buccellato roll as per above instructions. Make sure that the seam is located at the bottom of the roll, cut on a 45 degree angle into 1 ½ inch wide pieces and place on the cookie sheet, at 2 inches apart.

Make a series of riddles with a fork, “the buccetta”, on the top of each cookie to allow the vapor to escape.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes; than brush the buccellati with egg wash and to give them a festive look, sprinkle on top some of the nonpareil candies (tiny multicolored sugar balls). Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack.

The Cake

To make the classic round bucciddatu you need to shape one of the stuffed strips into a ring cake.

After the bucceddatu is rolled so that the sealed part is placed at the bottom, shape into a round and seal the ends. With the help of a spatula transfer the cake onto a cookie sheet and using a sharp knife, make little cuts on the outside of the ring at one inch intervals.

Make a series of riddles with the prongs of a fork at half inch intervals on top of the buccellato to allow the vapor to escape.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes; than brush the buccellati with egg wash and to give them a festive look, sprinkle on top some of the nonpareil candies (tiny multicolored sugar balls). Bake for additional an 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack


In Palermo the baked buccellati also are garnished using apricot marmalade diluted with a little water and melted over a low flame, so it can be used to glaze.

The top and side of the buccellato is washed with the apricot glaze, sprinkled with roasted and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts and decorated with candied fruits.


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