Dessert/ Easter/ European/ Recipes

Quick Colomba di Pasqua – No Yeast Italian Easter Cake

23/03/2022

A simplified version of the traditional Italian Easter cake, this is an EASY Colomba di Pasqua recipe made without yeast. No messy kneading and no waiting for dough to rise!

Italian Easter cake baked into a homemade colomba di pasqua mould.

Why We Love This

A simplified colomba di pasqua that involves no instant yeast or waiting for the dough to rise. You can get it prepped and in the oven in around 15 minutes instead of over 1-2 days.

Light and airy just like the traditional colomba, but with a golden cake crumb. Enriched with the classic Italian flavours of almond, fresh citrus zest, and candied orange peel. Enjoy it for breakfast or with a hot cup of coffee as an afternoon snack.

P.S. You can use a colomba di pasqua paper mould or make your own mould out of an aluminium foil tray. Or simply bake in a deep cake dish to make it even easier!

Related: Bolo Rei – Portuguese Kings Cake / Greek Koulourakia Biscuits

Slice of fresh Italian Easter cake.

What is Colomba di Pasqua? 

Colomba di pasqua or colomba pasquale translates as ‘Easter dove’ and is a sweet Italian Easter cake said to have originated in Milan. It was created as an Easter version of similar Italian sweet, bread-like cakes such as panettone and pandoro, that are usually enjoyed at Christmas. 

Colomba cake is usually baked in the shape of a dove (colomba) using a paper mould. At Easter time, colomba cakes fill the shelves at Italian bakeries and grocery stores everywhere. You can even order them online straight from Italy to many places around the world!

Since the traditional dough is made from flour, eggs, sugar and yeast, and takes time and patience to rise, many Italian families simply buy the cake rather than making it at home. Hence why we’re sharing the quick no yeast version today. If you prefer, you can make Italian Easter cookies instead.

What You’ll Need

  • Self Raising Flour – This is the main raising agent instead of yeast. Sub with all purpose flour and 1 tsp baking powder.
  • Caster Sugar – Also known as superfine sugar. You can also use regular white sugar.
  • Eggs – Separate into whites and yolks. We’ll be whipping the egg whites to give the cake that extra fluffy texture and crumb.
  • Milk – We used full cream dairy milk. Sub with oat milk or soy milk. We haven’t tested this with coconut milk but it should also work fine.
  • Butter – Salted or unsalted are fine. Soften to room temperature before you begin.
  • Almond Extract – Sub with double the amount of vanilla extract for the same impact.
  • Citrus Zest – We used zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon. You can use either fruit or just leave this out for a non-citrus version.
  • Filling Options – Candied lemon and candied orange peel (also known as mixed peel), raisins (or sultanas / currants) and chocolate chips all make great fillings.

Topping Options:

  • Icing Sugar – Mixed with water into a runny syrup, or sprinkled generously over the top gives extra crunch to the top cake crust.
  • Pearl Sugar – Also known as nib sugar. This gives the colomba topping an extra crunch. It can be hard to source depending where you live, so look for it online or make your own pearl sugar at home.
  • Almonds – It’s more common to use whole almonds, but you can also sub with almond slivers or slices. Once baked, they take on a delicious roasted almond flavour.
Ingredients laid out to make Italian Easter cake.

How to Make a Colomba Mould:

  1. Use a disposable foil tray / BBQ tray and fold in the corners to create the dove shape. You can use small bowls to fold neat edges around the circle shapes, but we found it easy enough to bend just using your hands. Make sure to press the bottom section of the corners flat so the cake mix doesn’t spread underneath.

How to make the Colomba di Pasqua Cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C / 360˚F. In a bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks, around 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  2. Beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until lighter in colour and creamed. Continue beating on low and add in the egg yolksmilkalmond extractorange and lemon zest. Add the self raising flour over three batches, beating on medium until well combined. Pour in any optional fillings (candied peelsultanas or chocolate chips) and mix in.
  3. Using a spoon, slowly fold through the beaten egg whites into the batter. Don’t overmix it at this stage, to keep a nice amount of air in the mixture.
  1. Pour out the batter into your colomba mould, homemade mould or a regular baking tin. Note: If using a mould, place onto a tray to keep the shape and avoid spills. Mix together the icing sugar and water to form a runny syrup / paste. Using a brush, drip it all over the top.
  2. Finally, place a handful of almonds and optional pearl sugar over the cake and dust with an extra sprinkle of icing sugar.
  3. Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour or until cooked through (check with a skewer) – oven times will vary. At the 20 minute point, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil to stop the top burning. Allow to cool before removing the mould and / or slicing the cake.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Shape – Don’t be too worried about getting the perfect Easter dove bread shape. Even commercial versions don’t often look like doves! It’s the intention, enjoyment and taste that counts. 
  • Baking – Place a baking tray underneath your dove mould to catch any potential drips if the dough spills over while baking.
  • Colour – Cover the cake with foil after 15-20 minutes to stop it getting too dark on top. 
  • Storage – Colomba cake will keep for around 1 week at room temperature. Keep it covered / in an airtight container to avoid it drying out. You can also keep it in the fridge or freeze it.

FAQs

Is colomba di pasqua similar to panettone?

Traditional Italian dove bread and panettone are very similar, with minor variations to their base ingredients. Panettone is very different in shape and has a simple powdered sugar topping, whereas colomba di pasqua has a pearl sugar and almond topping.

Why is it shaped like a dove?

The dove symbolises peace and the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition, and is an important religious symbol especially at Easter. You’ll find it popping up in other baked treats like Italian cuddura biscuits. It’s also a symbol of the coming of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

What should I serve with colomba di pasqua?

This cake is best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee or tea! To amp it up you could serve it with whipped cream and fresh berries, or a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

What can I do with any leftover cake?

Use it instead of regular bread in chester squares or bread and butter pudding.

Variations

  • Tweak the Dough – Add your favourite cake fillings like raisins, dried fruit or chocolate chips, or leave them out for a plain version (more like pandoro).
  • Toppings – No pearl sugar? Sprinkle it with hagelslag chocolate sprinkles or regular sprinkles. Or try it with slivered or sliced almonds, walnuts or pistachios.
Top view of colomba di pasqua cake in a mould.

Want more Easter baking favourites? Try these next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Colomba di pasqua topped with almonds and icing sugar.

Quick Colomba di Pasqua – No Yeast Italian Easter Cake

A simplified version of the traditional Italian Easter cake, this is an EASY Colomba di Pasqua recipe made without yeast. No messy kneading and no waiting for dough to rise!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Cake, Dessert, Easter
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 10 Pieces
Calories: 354kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $8

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups self raising flour 300 g / 10.5 oz, sub all purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup caster sugar / superfine sugar 180 g / 6.3 oz
  • 3 eggs yolks and whites separated
  • ½ cup milk 125 ml / 4.2 fl oz
  • 100 g butter softened or room temperature, sub with 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp almond extract sub amaretto extract or marsala / port for a spiced note
  • 1 orange zest
  • 1 lemon zest

Optional fillings – pick one or use all!

  • cup candied lemon and orange peel
  • cup sultanas sub raisins or currants
  • cup chocolate chips

For the topping

  • 2 tbsp icing sugar plus extra for dusting
  • ¾ tbsp water
  • ¼ cup almonds whole or slivered
  • 2 tbsp pearl sugar optional – if you can source it or make it

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C / 360˚F.
  • In a bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks, around 30 seconds – 1 minute.
    3 eggs
  • Beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until lighter in colour and creamed.
    100 g butter, ¾ cup caster sugar / superfine sugar
  • Continue beating on low and add in the egg yolks, milk, almond extract, orange and lemon zest.
    3 eggs, ½ cup milk, 1 orange zest, 1 lemon zest, 1 tsp almond extract
  • Add the self raising flour over three batches, beating on medium until well combined.
    2 ½ cups self raising flour
  • Pour in any optional fillings (candied peel, sultanas or chocolate chips) and mix in.
    ⅓ cup candied lemon and orange peel, ⅓ cup sultanas, ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  • Using a spoon, slowly fold through the beaten egg whites into the batter. Don’t overmix it at this stage, to keep a nice amount of air in the mixture.
  • Pour out the batter into your colomba mould, homemade mould or a regular baking tin. Note: If using a mould, place onto a tray to keep the shape and avoid spills.

For the topping

  • Mix together the icing sugar and water to form a runny syrup / paste. Using a brush, drip it all over the top.
    2 tbsp icing sugar, ¾ tbsp water
  • Finally, place a handful of almonds and optional pearl sugar over the cake and dust with an extra sprinkle of icing sugar.
    ¼ cup almonds, 2 tbsp pearl sugar, 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour or until cooked through (check with a skewer) – oven times will vary. At the 20 minute point, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil to stop the top burning.
  • Allow to cool before removing the mould and / or slicing the cake.

Recipe Notes

  • Shape – Don’t be too worried about getting the perfect Easter dove bread shape. Even commercial versions don’t often look like doves! It’s the intention, enjoyment and taste that counts. 
  • Baking – Place a baking tray underneath your dove mould to catch any potential drips if the dough spills over while baking.
  • Colour – Cover the cake with foil after 15-20 minutes to stop it getting too dark on top. 
  • Storage – Colomba cake will keep for around 1 week at room temperature. Keep it covered / in an airtight container to avoid it drying out. You can also keep it in the fridge or freeze it.
  • Tweak the Dough – Add your favourite cake fillings like raisins, dried fruit or chocolate chips, or leave them out for a plain version (more like pandoro).
  • Toppings – No pearl sugar? Sprinkle it with hagelslag chocolate sprinkles or regular sprinkles. Or try it with slivered or sliced almonds, walnuts or pistachios.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Quick Colomba di Pasqua – No Yeast Italian Easter Cake
Amount per Serving
Calories
354
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
13
g
20
%
Saturated Fat
 
7
g
44
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Cholesterol
 
73
mg
24
%
Sodium
 
96
mg
4
%
Potassium
 
140
mg
4
%
Carbohydrates
 
53
g
18
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
28
g
31
%
Protein
 
7
g
14
%
Vitamin A
 
348
IU
7
%
Vitamin C
 
3
mg
4
%
Calcium
 
46
mg
5
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Quick Colomba di Pasqua - No Yeast Italian Easter Cake

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