A Classic Italian Easter Cake With A Modern Twist

Food & Drink

Carlo Gherardi, the founder of Palazzo di Varignana resort, is set to bring a reimagined version of the classic Colomba to the U.S. for the first time.

In Italy, the baking of Colomba Easter Cake (Dolce di Pasqua) is one of the first signs that spring is on the horizon. A perennially popular gift for friends and family, the cake plays a prominent role at the Easter dinner table.

Like its Christmas cousin (Panettone), Colomba is traditionally made with a dough of flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and natural yeast laced with candied fruit. But compared to the round dome-like Panettone, Colomba’s shape resembles a dove, symbolizing a message of hope.

As one might guess, traditional Colomba is made with significant amounts of butter, creating its sweet taste and fluffy texture.

The green gold of Emilia Romagna

Hotelier Gherardi is passionate about olive trees, with 150 hectares of new olive groves growing on the grounds of his farm-to-table resort and restaurants in the hills of Emilia Romagna.

Palazzo di Varignana plans to become the leading producer in Emilia Romagna, creating quality agronomic supply chains that restore native crops and protect the landscape. Over 150,000 plants on the grounds produce high-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) using sustainable cultivation and harvesting techniques.

The genesis of a creative partnership

Master Pastry Chef Gino Fabbri and his wife, Morena, have been working in their shop in the small town of Castenaso (located about seven miles from the center of Bologna, the capital of the Emilia Romagna region) for more than four decades.

“I have always believed that my desserts should speak of the land, tradition, and affection; they should highlight the great ingredients I use in my workshop,” explained Chef Fabbri in an email.

“My desserts must astonish with their apparent simplicity, and for the memories I hope they leave in the hearts of those who taste them.”

With the pastrymaker’s use of top-quality raw materials, years of experience, and passion for experimentation, Fabbri has won prestigious competitions—his products are known throughout the region for their excellence.

The Palazzo di Varignana Colomba

Based on their shared values and mission to sustain the beauty of Emilia Romagna, Palazzo di Varignana’s team and Fabbri began a bold collaboration that gave birth to the reimagined Easter cake, a leavened product substituting prized Vergnano Nostrana di Brisighella EVOO for butter.

The new Colomba is healthier, lighter, and more aromatic than the classic version, one that is likely to appeal to a more health-conscious generation of Italians and Italian-Americans. The oil’s aromatic and fruity notes, vanilla, and candied orange enhance its flavors. Nutrient-rich with Vitamin E and polyphenols, it’s topped with crunchy almonds and sugar crystals.

“The fragrance and lingering taste of the olive oil wonderfully complements that sourdough of my leavened pastry,” says Chef Fabbri.

In addition to the olive-oil infused Colomba, Palazzo di Varignana has announced an “Adopt an Olive Tree” gift box that includes an eco-friendly tube bag of EVOO, discounts on new olive oils for five years, a Varignana Passport certificate confirming the adoption, and a personalized tag with the name of the adopter’s olive tree.


Read more about Easter in Italy: What to Expect 2024

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