Every region produces its own version of a sweet yellow bread or cake usually studded with raisins, nuts, candied fruits, or spices, which are symbolic of fertility and abundance for the coming year. There’s pandoro, panpepato, pangiallo, and panforte, but panettone, Milan’s signature cake, is the one most well-known here in America.
No one could challenge Milan’s claim as the birthplace of this sweet bread, but many stories jockey about as to its beginnings. The most romantic (and the one I like and have embellished) is the tale of Antonio, a local baker who was in love with a beautiful and aloof maiden who threw him not even a crumb of encouragement. The lovesick Antonio, expressing his passion in the way he knew best, fled to the kitchen where he cooked up the tallest, lightest, most beautiful yellow cake in the whole of Italy and presented it to the maiden with a simple note: Pan d’Antonio (bread from Tony). She took one bite, sighed, and fell immediately into his eager arms.
However that first panettone (which translates to big bread) came to be, not all panettone are made with as much love and quality ingredients as Antonio’s.
I order mine from Gustiamo. If you enter the code FOR, a beautiful cake worthy of Antonio’s can be yours at a discount. They make wonderful holiday gifts and incredible French toast.