The leavened cake made with a base of water, flour, butter, eggs plus the addition of dried fruits and nuts is a traditional staple in the Italian—and by extension the Italian-American—tables during the Christmas season. We have all watched our dear grandmothers and mothers bake it at home or in modern times accompany them to our favorite bakery to buy them.
What is the origin of this simple yet delicious accoutrement of festivities? There are two major legends and both arise from Milano in the Middle Ages.
The first legend says that the cooks preparing a big banquet hosted by Ludovico il Moro, the powerful duke of the city, had forgotten to take out the dessert from the oven, which ended up as pure carbon. A humble kitchen helper called Toni prepared an impromptu cake with the kitchen leftovers. The head cook was reluctant to present that novelty in the…
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