According to an old saying in Italy, if you go to Lucca and don’t try buccellato, this sweet Tuscan cake, you haven’t been to Lucca at all. In Tuscany, there are very special stories surrounding the sweet filled yeast Striezel.Jump to Recipe
Bread from soldiers and cake tax
The name buccellato comes from the Latin buccellatum. In Roman times, this was the name given to the round bread that the soldiers handed out to the poor. The first recipe for buccellato was found in Lucca in Tuscany in a document from 1485. The sweet Tuscan cake, now flavoured with aniseed, was so widespread a few decades later that the Republic of Lucca imposed a tax on it in the 16th century. With the revenue, it was finally possible to renew the protective dams on the Serchio River.
Variations from north to south
Over time, both the recipe and the appearance of the buccellato changed. The dough became more refined and softer. In northern Italy, the original recipe was sweetened with raisins soaked in grappa. In Sicily, the dough flavoured with lemon and orange was filled with dried figs and nuts. Today this version is popular throughout southern Italy.
The cake and life events
In the Garfagnana region north of Lucca, buccellato soon played an unusual role. It became a lucky charm and a sign of change at key religious festivals in the life of Catholics: on the occasion of first communion, confirmation and marriage, godparents give their godchildren a buccellato with colourful ribbons. The ribbons symbolise the bond with each other and with God. The life span of a buccellato is usually short! However, if there are any leftovers and it becomes hard, you can divide it into bite-sized pieces (buccelae). You can roast these, then briefly dunk them in a cup of coffee or cocoa and eat with pleasure.
- 1 packet dry yeast or 25 g fresh yeast
- 260 g flour 00
- 260 ml milk
- 100 g raisins
- 2 tbsp rum
- 340 g flour 00
- 80 g icing sugar
- 80 g butter at room temperature
- 6 egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 lemons
- 1 pinch salt
- 120 g sugar
- 140 g butter
- 300 g walnuts ground
- 3-4 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 egg white
- icing sugar
Prepare the pre-dough the evening before. In a food processor, mix the dry yeast with the flour and warm milk thoroughly. Then knead the dough on the work surface for a few more minutes by hand and roll into a ball. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, leave to rise at room temperature for half an hour. Place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, take the pre-dough out of the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Soak the raisins in the rum.
Mix the butter, egg yolk, vanilla extract, the peel of the lemons and the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) with a food processor. Divide the pre-dough into small pieces and add these gradually. Stir the dough until an even mass is formed and it detaches from the sides of the bowl. Finally, mix in the soaked raisins. Now place the dough on the work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes, form into a ball and leave to rest.
Fill and bake
Meanwhile, beat the sugar, honey, butter and ground walnuts with a food processor until creamy. If the mixture is too dry, simply add some milk.
Divide the dough into three parts. Roll out one part after the other thinly on a baking paper dusted with flour. Spread a third of the filling on each part and then roll up the dough like a roulade. Make vertical cuts at regular intervals in the rolled dough with a sharp knife until the middle of the roll.
Grease a cake tin with butter and dust with flour. Carefully plait the three filled, cut rolls and place them in the baking tin. Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for one hour, then brush with egg white and bake in the pre-heated oven at 180° C for 45 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.