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Easy and Delicious Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve posted a recipe for a Pandoro Christmas tree dessert in the past, filled with either a chocolate mousse filling, or a lemon curd/mascarpone filling. You can view it here. They’re as easy as can be, since the cake itself –  a traditional rich, buttery Italian Christmas treat – is purchased. All you have to do is slice it, drizzle it with some liqueur (or a simple syrup), make the fillings, and assemble the cake.

Making the filling is the hardest part. But this year, I’m making it really easy on myself with a filling made from whipped cream and a boxed vanilla pudding mix. That’s right, I’m taking a shortcut, and I have to confess, I think it’s my favorite of all the ones I’ve made in the past. After all the work that’s required for the Lucullan fish feast we enjoy on Christmas Eve, this easily prepared dessert is a much needed way to present a delicious showstopper without too much fuss.

And while we’re talking about Christmas Eve, I was recently contacted by a local newspaper, whose reporter interviewed me for a feature on holiday food traditions. As a former journalist, I’m used to being the one doing the interviewing, but this time the tables were turned and the reporter asked me lots of questions. He wrote a really nice article about my family, that includes my recipe for stuffed squid, and a photo of my dad and husband, that you can read here. But little did I know that my photo would be plastered on the front page – bad hair day, wrinkles and all! Where’s Photoshop when you need it?

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming – and the easy Pandoro Christmas tree. Slice the cake into about seven even layers. If you’re serving it right away, dust the cake first with powdered sugar. It’s easiest to sprinkle on the sugar before you layer it and add the filling, so you can roll it on its side and get better coverage. But if you’re holding it to serve it a day or two later, it won’t matter because the sugar will dissolve into the cake.

Make the simple syrup and add the liqueur. I divided the simple syrup solution and in one I added rum. In the other I added Sambuca. I alternated flavors with different layers. If you don’t want to add liqueur, you can just the simple syrup without alcohol. The cake isn’t particularly dry, but I think it really benefits from some moistening, so don’t skip this step.

Make the instant pudding mix by mixing milk with the mix (using less milk than the box calls for, since you’ll be adding whipped cream. You don’t want it so soft that it pours out of the cake layers.) Fold in the whipped cream.

Spread some of the filling on each layer, placing each layer at a different angle from the prior one, so the tips are in different orientations.

Decorate the edges with berries and slice.

You can see, it holds together very well, even after it’s sliced. Naturally, the bottom slices will be larger portions than the top, so you’ll want to split those in half (or maybe not!)

I’m getting hungry for some again. Time to make another one.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Easy and Delicious Pandoro Tree
 
Author:
Serves: at least 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large pandoro cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sambuca or anisette
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 5.1 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • berries to decorate
Instructions
  1. Slice the pandora cake horizontally, in six or seven layers.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Let the syrup cool, then divide in two and put the sambuca in one half, and the rum in the second half.
  4. Make the box of instant, mixing it with only 2 cups of milk instead of the 3 cups per instructions on the box.
  5. Whip the 1 cup of cream until soft peaks, then fold the whipping cream into the instant pudding.
  6. Drizzle some of the simple syrup on each layer of the cake, following by some of the pudding/whipped cream mixture.
  7. Continue with the rest of the layers, pivoting each slice so that the points are arranged in a star-like fashion.
  8. Finish by sprinkling with powdered sugar, and decorating the tips with berries.
  9. Optional, find a nice star at a craft shop for the very top.

Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

Pandoro “Christmas Tree”

At this time of year, in every Italian family, there’s a decision to be made. Will it be panettone, or pandoro at the table? There are those who stand by their fruit-studded panettone, and those who swear by its plainer cousin, the golden pandoro. Me? I love both of these rich, yeasty cakes, and can’t do without a panettone at Christmas. I love to eat it warmed up for breakfast on Christmas morning, but it also makes the best bread pudding on the planet.

Pandoro may be panettone’s plain Jane cousin, although its star-shape is anything but.
What’s really great about its plainness though, is that you can refashion it in many different and delicious ways, including this dessert that’s perfect for Christmas.
I’ve already made this pandora “tree” twice so far this holiday season, using a chocolate mousse filling.

Last year, I made it with a filling of mascarpone and lemon curd, as shown in the first photo of this post. Try it with whipped cream, vanilla pastry cream, or a combination of vanilla and chocolate. Pandoro is like a beautiful blank slate, so you’re limited only by your imagination.

Start by slicing the cake horizontally into six to seven layers.

Make a simple syrup and add some liqueur – anything you like, from rum, to limoncello, to Grand Marnier. For the chocolate mousse version, I used rum. Drizzle (ok, drench is more like it) each layer with some of the liquid, before spreading the mousse on top. As you add a new layer of cake, swivel the layer so that the points don’t line up. You want it to resemble a Christmas tree shape.

When I was finished, I sprinkled it with some powdered sugar, but it quickly gets absorbed by the cake. I also added some small holly leaves and a star on top made from melted chocolate, using a cookie cutter to get the shapes.

In this chocolate version, I also added pomegranate seeds as decoration, but in last year’s version, raspberries and blueberries worked well too.

It’s easy to serve too, slicing from the top. One of these cakes serves a crowd of about twenty.
Once you see how delicious and versatile pandoro is, you’ll wish you had a couple stashed away in your pantry to pull out for special occasions.
I’ve also used pandoro for making zuppa inglese, (an Italian version of English trifle) a recipe I’ll post early next year.
Where I live, pandoro cakes are easily available at supermarkets or specialty food stores. If you can’t find them in stores near you, you can order them online.
But hurry, because they disappear right after Christmas.
Even though they contain no preservatives, they last for months, so buy a few for pandoro “emergencies.”

Ciao Chow Linda is also on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to connect with me on Facebook, here for my Pinterest page, and here for my Instagram page to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.





Pandoro “Christmas Tree”
printable recipe here

You can make this a day or two ahead of time. In fact, I think it tastes better if you make it ahead, giving the rum a chance to permeate the cake. The hardest part is finding a large enough space in your refrigerator.

Chocolate Mousse Version
1 large Pandoro
1 recipe chocolate mousse 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum

Bring the water and sugar to a boil and cook a few minutes until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the rum.
Make the chocolate mousse recipe.
Slice the cake horizontally into five or six layers, and starting from the largest slice, take the simple syrup mixture and evenly pour some on the layer of the cake, then spread some of the mousse on top.
Take a second slice and place over the mousse, rotating the cake so the points are not in alignment with the first layer. Sprinkle with more of the simple syrup, then add more of the mousse. Continue doing this until you have used all layers, then spread a little more mousse on top. You’ll probably have some mousse leftover (not a bad thing).
Decorate as you like, with chocolate leaves, stars, berries, pomegranate arils.

Chocolate Mousse recipe

 

9 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 tsps. instant espresso powder, dissolved in 2 T. hot water
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in a microwave oven at 1 minute intervals, stirring after each interval so it doesn’t burn. (If you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler or place the ingredients in a heat-proof measuring cup or bowl set inside a saucepan filled halfway with water, and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat; stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. While the chocolate is melting, use a mixer to whip the espresso and cream in a large bowl until you have whipped cream, but don’t overwhip. Set it aside. In a separate bowl, use the mixer (with clean beaters) to whip the egg whites until they start to look white and creamy. Then add the sugar and whip just to combine. Again, do not over whip. When the chocolate is fully melted, pour it into a large mixing bowl. Add a scoop of the whipped cream and a scoop of the egg whites, and stir them thoroughly into the chocolate. In small alternating batches, fold the remaining whipped cream and egg whites into the chocolate until the mousse is smooth and even.

Lemon Version
1 large Pandoro
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
11 oz. lemon curd
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup limoncello

Mix the mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar and lemon curd together. Whip the cream, then add to the mixture.
Bring the water and sugar to a boil and cook a few minutes until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the rum.
Slice the cake into five or six horizontal layers. Spread some of the simple syrup on each slice, then cover with some of the mascarpone/lemon curd/cream mixture. Continue adding layers in this fashion, rotating each one so the points don’t match up. Decorate with berries or other items, as you like.