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The traditional dove-shaped “Colomba di Pasqua” or “Colomba Pasquale” (Italian Easter Dove cake) has been a firm fixture on the Easter calendar in Italy for almost a century.
Among the Easter sweets, few have the symbolic power of the unmistakable dove in Italy. For its shape, of course, it is a symbol of peace and love, which is placed side by side with the use of eggs which instead represents the Resurrection. But we can't deny the craving for the simplicity of the dough and that sentimental sweetness of the almond glaze.
The classic Easter Dove Cake is a typical Italian sweet of leavened dough whose origins would be very ancient. It is an particular sweet also for that simplicity of the dough and that sentimental sweetness of the almond glaze, which never slips towards the "sinful" chocolate. Let's find out the hystorical origins of the classic Italian Dove.
The legends regarding the origins of this delicacy are many, and no one is sure on which one is the closest one to the actual truth. According to one of them, the first colomba would date back to 610 in Pavia, which at the time was the capital of the Lombards. Queen Teodolinda had hosted a group of Irish pilgrims, led by San Colombano and offered them and rich game banquet, but the saint declined the food because it was the period of Lent and, by blessing the game, he turned it into white bread loaves shaped like doves.
Another legend traces the origin of the colomba to the battle of Legnano (1176). It is said that a leader of the Lombard League saw two doves perched on the insignia of the League, which remained there even when the battle was approaching. Interpreting this as a prophecy of peace, the general, to give courage to his men, ordered the cooks to prepare dove-shaped bread loaves with eggs, flour, and yeast.
These legends suggest that there must have been Easter cakes in the shape of a dove.
The most recent story of the Easter Dove can be traced back to the city of Milan and especially to Angelo Motta. The invention of the panettone in the first post-war period is owed to him. In order to use the ingredients and machinery even in the spring period in the early 1930s, an old recipe was taken up and the tradition of the Easter colomba started as we know it today. It was once decorated with candied fruits and covered with an almond glaze. Since then it has become the symbol of this religious feast.
Since its creation, the Italian Easter Dove has become an indispensable part of Easter festivities in Italy. Rich, buttery and not too sweet, “Colomba” can be enjoyed for breakfast accompanied by a strong cup of coffee, as a snack topped with honey, jam or chocolate spread, or as a dessert with whipped cream, poached fruit and perhaps a glass of sweet wine.