La Pinsa Venexiana – The Original Venetian Christmas Cake

When Grandmother was young – she grew up in the northern Lagoon – this was the cake her mother prepared on 24 December, but also on the morning of Epiphany Day – January 6. So to celebrate L’EPIFANIA, and LA BEFANA, of course, we are sharing this family recipe today.

This is substantial food, so badly needed when the nights are long in late December and in January. It’s a cake that was prepared early in the morning when it was still dark. Just like it is in the pictures in this blog post. 

For a small pinsa (2-3 persons) you need 90 gr wheat flour, 90 gr polenta flour, 4 table spoons raisins, 4 table spoons pinoli (pine nuts), 8 table spoons grappa (or rum / brandy), 1/8 liter tap water, 1/8 liter milk, 1/2 packet of baking powder (2 teaspoons), 60 gr soft butter, 1/2 tablespoon anise, 3 table spoons white sugar, 1 tablespoon cane sugar, plus an extra spoonful of brown cane sugar.

Mix the flour with baking powder, add the sugar, water and milk and carefully mix and simultaneously heat the ingredients in a pan at low heat. In the meantime, soak the raisins and pine nuts in the grappa. Keep stirring for about 20 minutes until the mixture becomes very soft and compact.

Add the raisins, pine nuts and butter. Continue stirring until the butter melts and blends with the ingredients. Pour the polenta mixture into a terrina and cover it with a thin layer of brown cane sugar. Bake in the oven until it turns golden brown. Eat warm with hot spicy tea (recipe will follow on my blog, it will make you think of vin brûlé that you can get so often now along the shopping streets in Venice.

Grandmother’s special recommendation for this recipe is to ALWAYS eat it warm – it must not get cold. If you cannot eat the cake at once, eat it later during the day, but keep it in a warm spot in the kitchen.

You see this is a very simple recipe that was / is still prepared for breakfast on these two important festive days during Christmas time in Venice and the Veneto. It’s a warming dish, a pick-me-up, in a very dark and humid world. You might even accompany it with a cup of the ancient Venetian winter drink, dosa calda (here’s this recipe).

As la Befana porta via tutte le feste, this is my last blog post for Christmas 2017. BUONA EPIFANIA :-)


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  1. Janet Rant wrote:

    Buona Epifania with love and blessings for this coming year Iris and Lina xx

    Posted 1.5.18 Reply
    • Grazie dear Janet! Much love and best wishes from us ! xx

      Posted 1.5.18 Reply
  2. Lora wrote:

    Hi thank you for your recipe. My parents’ families are from Portogruaro, north east of Venice and include figs in their pinsa. Do ingredients differ according to what area of Veneto you are from?

    Posted 1.6.18 Reply
    • Ciao Lora, Grandmother also uses dried fruit for her pinsa. Everything we have in our dispensa right now :-) like figs, raisins, even dried plums… The recipes we share here are from Venice, centro storico. The family has been living here ever since, but they had to leave town during WW2.

      Posted 1.8.18 Reply

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