Dove-Shaped Easter Cake
Dove-shaped breads can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and biblically the dove has always been a symbol of peace.
There are many legends about the origins of this sweet bread, but Colomba was first produced industrially in the 1930s by Milanese company, Motta, makers of the famous Panettone. Wanting to create a similar cake for Easter, this dove-shaped version with candied fruits, topped with almonds, was born and has since become a must-have on the Italian Easter table.
This wonderful, delicate sweet bread can of course be enjoyed at any time of the year and the silicone dove-shaped mould can be purchased online. As it is not too sweet, it is delicious eaten for breakfast. It is best eaten freshly made – wrap any leftovers up in foil and keep in an airtight container. The shop-bought ones do last longer, but are not as delicious as this homemade version.
Makes 1 cake/ Served 12
FOR THE STARTER DOUGH:
10g fresh yeast
120ml milk, lukewarm
95g plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
Ingredients For the Cake
13g fresh yeast
70g caster (superfine) sugar, plus 1 tsp
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
250g plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
₁⁄₂ tsp salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
130g good-quality candied peel, diced
Ingredients For the Topping
30g ground almonds
50g caster (superfine) sugar
₁⁄₂ tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
Ingredients To Decorate
30g whole almonds
Icing (confectioners’) sugar
First, make the starter dough. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until it is well incorporated. Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for 12 hours, or overnight.
The next day, mix the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar together in a small bowl to form a paste. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until light and creamy. Add the yeast mixture and vanilla extract, then add the starter dough and butter, and beat gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until everything is well incorporated. Fold in the flour and salt. Turn out on a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes. Incorporate the zests and candied fruit, and knead for 1 minute until well amalgamated.
Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover with clingfilm, and rest in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Carefully place the dough in a 1kg/2lb 4oz silicone dove-shaped baking mould, cover with clingfilm, and leave to rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the topping. Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
Spread the paste all over the top of the dove, scatter the almonds over and sprinkle with a little sifted icing sugar. Place the mould on a flat baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, cover the dove with foil and continue to bake for a further 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, leave to cool, then carefully turn the dove out of the mould and place onto a plate or board.
Italian Bakery Book cover credits: Gennaro Contaldo’s Italian Bakery, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Dan Jones.