A guide to Italian Pastries & Cakes

Italy is known for its delicious food. It has many great foods, including delicious pizzas and unique pastas. Don’t forget the delicious Italian pastries and cakes!

Are you unsure where to begin? These are our top-rated Italian pastries and cakes that you should try.


Brioche and Cornetto

Italians like to start their day with something sweet. These cornetti are perfect! Joy (flickr).


Brioche, or cornetto depending on where in Italy you live, is a type of pastry that’s only eaten for breakfast. It usually comes with a cup of coffee to dip it into. It has a cake-like texture and more sugar than French brioche. Italians are open to mixing things up, and can make empty brioches or filled with cream, jelly or honey, unlike French purists. You can take your pick!


Tiramisu

Photo by Gina Mussio


Tiramisu is the most “happy” Italian dessert. It literally means “pick me back up” in Italian. This delicious dessert includes coffee-coated soft cookies called Savoiardi, mascarpone cream, and chocolate. Although it is claimed by many regions, such as Piedmont and Friuli-Venezia Giulia Giulia, the majority of accounts link the tasty dessert to Treviso in the Veneto area. For more information on Veneto’s best food, see our guide .


Crostata


Although the Crostata is technically a rustic pie you can make it as fancy as you like. Photo by Judy Witts


Crostata is a pie made with an Italian pastry crust (hence its name), and a fruit- or jelly filling. The crostata is rustic in its simplicity. You can fill it with anything from nectarines and other berries to cherries, apricots, or Nutella. It’s easy to make the crostata and it’s a classic Italian recipe. You’ll find it in every Italian nonna’s home!


Cassata Siciliana


Sicilian cassata, a traditional Italian cake made in Messina and Palermo, is one of Sicily’s most popular. The base of the cake is a round sponge made with fruit juices or liquors. It is then layered with ricotta, candied fruit peels, and a cream that’s similar to cannoli’s smooth ricotta. It’s then covered with a marzipan shell. This is traditionally a pastel-colored or green icing, sugar, or candied fruit decorations. This Sicilian classic dessert is a sugar bomb and must-try. For more information on Sicily’s best food, visit our region guide.


Cannoli


When you see cannoli sitting empty outside, you’ll know they are delicious. This means that they will add cream as soon as you place your order. Photo by John Rudolph Mueller


Cannoli, also from Sicily are rolls made of fried Italian pastry dough and filled with creamy ricotta. You can decorate the ends with chocolate chips, pistachio nuts or candied fruits. Remember that cannoli can be ordered in one. We recommend you to try the cannoli, chocolate, and pistachio flavors.


Torrone


You can make tortone with almost any type of nut. This is the case for the hazelnut torrone. Francesco Pozzi, photo


Torrone is an Italian traditional dessert that’s served during Christmas. It’s shaped like a candy bar and is somewhere between an Italian dessert and a confection. It is made with honey, sugar, egg white and toasted almonds. Similar to Spanish turron or french nougat, the bar is sweet and brittle. However, there are many variations, such as soft and chewy, pistachio-flavored, or chocolate. Although there are many recipes for torrone in Italy, the one that is most popular is the Cremona, Lombardy version. Cremona is so committed to their recipe that they host an Torrone Festival every year.


Panettone


Panettone, a Christmas treat in Milan


Panettone, a sweet bread made with raisins and candied fruit, is another Christmas treat. The dome-shaped bread is a staple Christmas gift. It has many siblings in Italy such as the pandolce of Genova and the star-shaped pandoro-panettone-italy. More information on panettone as well as Italy’s other Christmas cakes.

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