Italian Christmas Cake {Pitta ‘mpigliata}

Delicate coils of pastry surround raisins and walnuts in this traditional Calabrian treat called  {. This is my revised edition of this recipe. I received this recipe from my Mother-In-Law after enjoying it every year for Christmas, and I have been making it myself for the past 10 years for my family.

Christmas just would not be the same if we did not have this cake to enjoy each year. I have revised this recipe many times since I first started to make it myself and this is the latest revision. Originally the recipe I was given was just too large so I cut the recipe in half which will still make 7 to 8 small cakes. I like to slice it into wedges for my cookie tray to offer to guests over the holidays..

Although it sounds complicated, once you get going it really isn’t difficult. I made my cakes early this year as I will be away the beginning of December and will freeze the cakes until I return just before the holidays. If you do plan to freeze your cakes, do not use the honey or sprinkles until the cakes are thawed as the sprinkles tend to melt when frozen and then are thawed.

I use my Kitchen Aid table mixer with pasta roller attachment to make the dough which makes things much easier for me than rolling out the dough by hand. The amount of flour may need to be increased if needed. The dough should be a little softer than pasta dough, but not sticky.

Pastry Dough Cut Into Strips With Fluted Pastry Wheel

The Pastry Strips Are Filled And Folded, Then Rolled

Cake Is Secured With Toothpicks And Ready For The Oven

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Italian Christmas Cake

Italian Christmas Cake

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 Small Cakes
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes

It wouldn't be Christmas in our house unless I had wedges of these cakes on my cookie tray.



  • 1 Pound Of Raisins
  • 1 Pound Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Whiskey
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
  • Juice Of 1 Orange
  • Dash Of Anisette


  • 4 to 5 Cups All-Purpose Flour (Plus Additional For Rolling)
  • 3/4 Cup White Wine
  • 3 Eggs
  • Zest From 1 Lemon And 1 Orange
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • Toothpicks


  • 1 Cup Honey
  • Colored Sprinkles


  1. For the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and let sit overnight, covered, stirring occasionally.
  2. For the dough, make a mound of 4 cups of the flour on a pastry board or counter.
  3. Make a well in the center, and using a fork, begin to add in the remaining ingredients, mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ones by stirring with the fork until you have created a soft dough. (Add additional flour if the dough is still too sticky.)
  4. Knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes with a little additional flour as needed until the dough is smooth, then divide into 8 equal sized balls.
  5. To make the cakes, covering the rest of the balls, take one and begin to run it through a pasta machine to flatten.
  6. Continue to lightly flour and pass through increasingly narrow openings, until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. (I stop at number 3 to 4 on my roller attachment.)
  7. Place the dough strip on the counter, and using a scalloped pastry wheel, run it along the outside edges of each side of the dough.
  8. Next using the pastry wheel, cut the strip of dough in half lengthwise into two ribbons about 2 1/2 inches wide.
  9. On each half of the ribbon, sprinkle on some of the walnut, raisin mixture and fold to close.
  10. Starting at one end, begin to roll up the dough into a coil, using toothpicks to support it as needed.
  11. Continue until you have an 6 inch cake, and follow the same steps to use up all of the dough up in this manner. 
  12. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  13. Place the cakes on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned
  14. Melt the honey in a pot and brush each of the cakes lightly over the top.
  15. Bake an additional 5 minutes.
  16. Sprinkle with the candy sprinkles.
  17. Let cool completely and then wrap in foil to store.
  18. To serve, remove the toothpicks and cut into wedges.

Did you make this recipe?

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    1. You can use a rolling pin but it is a little difficult as the dough needs to be very thin. Do let the dough relax for at least 30 minutes or more before you start rolling.

  1. Also…how long should the strips be? Does 1 ball make 2 cakes…or do you coil 2 strips together to make one cake?

  2. Deborah, I came upon this recipe several years ago, around the time it was first published. This will be my 5th year of making them for my family. I use 1 1/2 times the ingredients which makes 24 approx 6″ cakes.

    This is one of my most beautiful looking, and (in my opinion) the best tasting holiday treat I make.

    While time consuming to make it’s my most rewarding cake. I love to give them as gifts.

    Thanks for your lovely site and all the delicious recipes. I’ve make quite a few.

    Peace, Skye

  3. My mother and my father’s mother used to make Italian fig cookies at Christmas that were very complicated. It seemed like my Mom and Dad worked for days making those cookies. I might try your recipe as a base to make something that might have a similar taste but will be a little less complicated….substituting chopped figs for raisins, almonds and hazelnuts for the walnuts and blackberry brandy for the whiskey.
    I think I have enough time to get these done for Christmas!
    Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Many thanks for posting this recepie.

    It’s a taste from my childhood. I remember my nona making these at Christmas.

    I made 24 this year and gave them as Christmas gifts.

    Many thanks


  5. My mother made these from a recipe given her by her aunt Matilda. I know she used solid shortening and no sugar. She spread the dough lightly with olive oil and then sprinkled sugar, cinnamon, grated orange peel, nuts and raisins. They frequently came out hard as a rock! When for whatever reason they came out “right” they disappeared quickly. She made them in a more individual.
    Thanks for preserving the recipe.

      1. Pitta impigliata. This is very simular to my recepy. I use yeast for the dough but this sounds easier and I will try your version as the yeast grows as you are forming them so I never have enough filling. I also put a bit of honey on the strips and the filling seems to stick not keen on putting sprinkles on but brush them with honey. They also keep for a long time in my cool room. I will try yours next Xmass. Happy New Year to you.

  6. This is the best cake I have ever eaten..brings back my best memories. My mom and I made these together for more years than I could count…miss those days. Worth all the work!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. My grandmother called it Pitta ‘nchiusa. Great memories of eating this when we were children.  Looking forward to making it. 

  8. My family was from San Nicole del Alto. They always made this right after Thanksgiving. They would cover it in honey and then wrap it in saran wrap then in foil and store them in round cookie tins. I remember eating them until February and they tasted fine! We pronounced it Pet-fee-ata.

    1. My great grandmother was born in San Nicola too! That is a mountain top village of ethnic Albanians, called Arberesche people. Our dialect is a mix of Calabrian and old Albanian. In that dialect we call this cake “Hahanna!” VERY different name!

  9. My Mother-In-Law made this every Christmas.  I’ve never had great luck making dough from scratch. I know it wouldn’t have exactly the same flavor, but I’m wondering if this could be made with strips of store bought pie crust as a shortcut? 

  10. I have been looking for this recipe for 50 years, my husband’s grandmother from Santa Severina would make this every Christmas when he was little and he could only remember it being long strips rolled up and tied with a string and bake in the oven. I am so excited to try this as a surprise for him. You directions are so explicit, I feel I can do this. I don’t have a pasta machine but will try rolling pin. Also do you have to let filling sit overnight or could you do 4 or 5 hours?

      1. Thank you so much for your reply. Cakes came out great and my husband was very surprised and happy. Any tips on assembly of dry and wet ingredients? I mixed my flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking soda, and then mixed the wet ingredients (wine, zest, oil, eggs and vanilla) in a measuring cup, then made the flour mound and made the well in the center to add wet ingredients. Not sure if this is how you do it but seemed to work OK. Any better way? Also did you ever use olive oil instead of vegetable oil? These were just so tasty and good and for not being a baker, pretty simple to assemble.

  11. Can I buy these from anywhere on the Planet? No baking skills, but grew up on these from visiting Grandma down south…

    1. I’ve never seen them sold in North America but once in a while you can find them in Italy, especially Calabria around holiday time.

  12. Deborah,
    I have been looking for this recipe for over 20 years.
    I just was told by my cousin she had the recipe. It was not very clear and I had made this with my grandmother years ago.
    Everything in your recipe seems spot on as what I remember and is pretty similar with what she wrote. But I know without a doubt it used Muscat raisins and it had oregano in the filling. Have you tried it with either. Also hers was closed like a donut and you had to flip it over when you brought it together. Any suggestions.

    1. There are many, many variations of this recipe from across southern Italy. This was the recipe my FIL’s family made from San Giovanni in Fiori in Calabria.

  13. My family has been making these for decades! It’ wouldn’t be Christmas without them! We only learned there were recipes until I gave to a friend this year and told her it was my grandmother from Calabria’s recipe and they googled it. Our recipe is very similar except we use red wine and both cinnamon and cloves. The dough is brown. Delicious!

  14. Have had this cake once and it is a keeper…when the lady cooked it I thought she drizzled the honey over the cake several times as she was baking it.. Also think she used fruit cake mix with the walnuts…loved it…will try it one day..

  15. This post just brought back a wave of memories! My father was an Italian doctor ,with many Italian patients and every Christmas he would receive at least one of these from his patients. My siblings(9 of us): and I would  squabble over who got the biggest wedge of the “pitta n chiusa”. We looked forward to having this dessert come into our home every year! My mother would hide it so we didn’t devour it in one sitting! Thanks for providing me with this recipe.I am going to try to make this and present it to my siblings at the next family gathering ( whenever that may be).

  16. My grandma who was Sicilian must have made it fir my grandpa who was Calabrese. How nice of her! She would send one to us and my mother would put it in the big upright freezer in the basement. When I discovered it one day, wrapped in aluminum foil. I couldn’t stop eating it.  I guess I snuck there  from time to time to get just a little more. . It was irresistible! I never ate things from my mother’s freezer or fridge  or cupboard on my own — ever. Just that. My mother got so mad when she realized it! She will be 96 this week and is bed-ridden. I want to surprise her with it. I never bake so I am thankful for the details!!! What temperature and for how long? I want to double it if I can! Please let me know! And thank you so in advance!!!!!!

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