Parrozzo – Christmas Almond Cake from Abruzzo


Here’s one I have never seen in a bakery in California – Abruzzo’s Christmas classic – Parrozzo, a specialty of Pescara, where my grandfather was born. This dome shaped almond cake glazed with chocolate gets its name from Pane rozzo, a sweet rustic bread made by the shepherds of Abruzzo.

I adapted this recipe from Anna Teresa Callen, an authority on the cooking of Abruzzo, remaining true to the spirit, if not the letter of her original recipe. For those of you interested in exploring the cuisine and culture of Abruzzo, I highly recommend Ms. Callen’s 1998 classic Food and Memories of Abruzzo, Italy’s Pastoral Land. A native of Guardiagrele, Abruzzo, she passed away in June of this year.



makes 1 nine inch cake

scant 1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (6 ounces)
1 cup semolina
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch of kosher salt
butter and flour for baking bowl

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon espresso powder

Chocolate sprinkles

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast lightly until fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times with fork. Set aside to cool.

Generously butter and flour a nine inch Pyrex bowl (nine cup capacity.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit food processor with metal blade. Process almonds with semolina to a fine texture. Set aside.

Fit standing mixer with paddle attachment. Beat egg yolks and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and thickened, about 3 minutes. Drop zest in bowl. Add almond/semolina mixture in three additions, alternating with lemon juice, beginning and ending with almond/semolina mixture to make a stiff batter.

Place room temperature egg whites and a pinch of kosher salt in clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk. Beat whites with a pinch of kosher salt until slightly frothy. Begin adding 1/4 cup sugar, a bit a time, beating until glossy stiff peaks form, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. The batter is quite stiff, and this process is made easier with the use of a large metal service spoon. Switch to a spatula for the final stages of folding. Fold remaining whites into batter in 4 additions. Turn batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake on center rack 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Lower heat to 350 degrees. Bake 20 to 28 minutes more until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry, covering top with foil if cake appears to darken excessively. Ovens vary – begin checking at 55 minutes total baking time.

Remove to a rack and cool 15 minutes. Invert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Make and pour the glaze:
Place chocolate and butter in small heatproof bowl and melt using either a microwave, double boiler or set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir once or twice until almost melted. Do not overheat. Remove bowl and set aside to finish melting, stirring once or twice until smooth. Add corn syrup and sprinkle espresso powder over melted mixture. Gently stir to combine.

Place cake on decorating turntable (or line a sheet pan with parchment and place cake, still on cooling rack, over sheet pan.) Pour glaze all at once over cake. Complete coverage by lifting glaze off of turntable OR parchment with palette knife and pressing it gently against sides of cake.

Allow glaze to set briefly. Drop chocolate sprinkles over top and sides of cake to simulate the look of rough hewn bread.

This cake keeps beautifully for four days at room temperature under a cake dome.

Food nerd notes:
Vanilla sugar is a particularly fine addition to baked goods of all kinds. To make it, pour 2 pounds C&H Baker’s Sugar (a finely ground white sugar) into a large container. Slit 2 vanilla beans lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the sugar, stirring to disperse the seeds. Bury the beans in the sugar. Cover and set aside for at least 1 week to allow flavors to marry. Replenish the sugar as you use it, and the beans if they dry out or lose their fragrance.

There are several varieties of espresso powder available. My favorite for baking comes from King Arthur Flour. It has a full flavor and fine texture that dissolves quickly.

Separate eggs when cold, directly from the refrigerator. To achieve maximum volume when beating, bring eggs, either whole or separated, to room temperature.

To quickly warm egg whites, crack them into a mixing bowl and place in a few inches of warm water for several minutes until warm. Bowl and beaters must be clean and free from any grease or fat for egg whites to beat to maximum volume.

Trader Joe’s has some excellent slivered almonds they call “Dry Toasted Almonds” in their stores now. They are fragrant, fresh and quite flavorful, and work beautifully here. And they will save you the step of toasting.


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I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

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  1. Comment by Lori Lynn:

    Ooh, black beauty! Love the shape and the color. Must be delicious!

  2. Comment by Marla:

    Great looking cake Adri…..seems like it could also be a stand in for a giant hedge hog if needed.

  3. Comment by I sognatori di Cucina e nuvole:

    Sai che adoro il Parrozzo e non avevo mai trovato la ricetta in giro????? Buon Anno!

    • Comment by Adri:


      Anch’io adoro questo dolce. Le ricette sono difficile da trovare – davvero, ho visto solamente tre o quattro in inglese. Buon anno!

  4. Comment by speedy70:

    grazie della visita, e complimenti della ricetta, dal gusto tutto italiano, bravissima!!!!

  5. Comment by tiziana:

    ti sono venuta a trovare anch’io…!
    ma che bello sai che me lo sono segnato tra i preferiti!!!!!!!!
    un bacio e alla prossima!
    buon anno!

  6. Comment by Bruna Cipriani:

    Complimenti per il tuo interessante blog!! Il tuo parrozzo è bellissimo!
    Un abbraccio

  7. Comment by Mila:

    Che spettacolo, mi segno la ricetta perchè mi ispira moooooolto!!!!

  8. Comment by sippitysup:

    Visions of sugar plums dance in my head. Merry Christmas my friend. GREGXO

  9. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    Oh Adri – You hit it out of the ball park here. I can’t wait to try it, but I never thought of cooking in those pyrex bowls from decades ago. I’m not sure I have the right size though, darn it. The photos are really stellar. I feel like I could just pluck those chocolate jimmies off that cake. I know how hard it is to get a good photo of a dark substance like that. bravi to both you and Bart.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      Thanks! I have wanted to make Parrozzo FOREVER, but I never got around to purchasing a dome shaped pan. I considered purchasing a “novelty” pan at Michael’s, but then I saw Anna Teresa Callen’s suggestion about a bowl. Pretty smart, huh? See if you have one that is nine inches across the top. If you don’t, I bet a neighbor does. My bowl is just a shade over 9 inches in diameter, and filled to the top has a nine cup capacity. My cake rose to within 1/2 inch of the top edge.

      I love the way the cake looks. In fact, I actually considered putting a second coat of glaze over the jimmies. I thought then it would look even more like bread, but I stopped at one. Maybe next time… Bart says thanks for the photo compliment. I took one look at the view screen, and called him to the kitchen. I knew I needed assistance.

      I hope you try this. Have you ever seen this in any bakeries near you? I suppose one would have to find an Abruzzese baker. By the way – my bowl came through several bakings unscathed. No explosions, cracks, etc. Just double check the bowl you use to be certain there are no chips, cracks or other defects in it. Apparently, a lack of integrity in one’s bowl can contribute to trouble in the oven! Buone feste!

  10. Comment by Cara and Stefano:

    This looks delicious, and as is so pretty, also! Would it be sacrilegious if we made it after Christmas? Buon Natale!

    • Comment by Adri:


      Thank you for the compliment, and I say, heck no, it would not be sacriligious – any time is a good time for Parrozzo! Buone feste!

  11. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn:

    It looks delicious. I must try to make it. Thanks for this wonderful recipe Adri!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Thank you, Paola. I hope you like this. I love almonds, and Bart loves chocolate. So this is perfect for us! It is wonderful with a cup of tea. Enjoy, and Buon Natale!

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