Pinza, the Italian Epiphany polenta cake from Veneto

Pinza, the Italian Epiphany polenta cake from Veneto

By 04/01/2018

Happy new year! Christmas is gone, so are the new year's celebrations but the festivities are not quite over yet, there is still Epiphany to come.

New year's eve was especially great for me this year. We spent it at home with friends and we had a proper Italian cenone (big dinner): food and drink kept coming to the table until almost midnight, in fact we managed to have our dessert just before midnight when we opened up a bottle of champagne (prosecco was for aperitivo) to toast to the new year.

I made some nibbles to go with our aperitivo (like mini bruschette, stuffed anchovy bites, olives and filo pastry rolls), then we had a wide range of finger food as a starter (lots of shellfish too) and a veggie lasagna. My friends made a main dish of pulled duck with potatoes and lentils and a delicious chocolate mousse for dessert. After midnight we did fireworks in the back garden and the children were super excited.

We are now waiting for "la Befana", the old witch that brings sweeties to children during the night of the 5th of January. Epiphany is a such a lovely tradition; all over Northern Italy large bonfires are made and people drink mulled wine and, in some regions, like Veneto and Friuli, they eat the traditional Epiphany cake: the Pinza. This is a rich cake made with cornmeal flour, fruit, nuts, citrus zest and fennel seeds; it goes very well with a glass of dessert wine. I just love it.

As I was not in Italy this year and I did not want to miss it I decided to make it. There are many different recipes, they vary from region to region, and there are sweet and savoury versions too.  Here is mine which originates from Veneto, if you like rustic cakes this is a good one to try. The 6th of January is also my daughter's birthday so it is double celebration in my family and I will make an extra cake too. Great!

Happy Epiphany day.

  • Prep Time : 25 minutes
  • Cook Time : 60 minutes
  • Yield : 10



Wash the sultanas (raisins) under the tap, put them in a bowl with a drop of liquor and let them rest for 30 minutes.

Peel and thinly slice the apple and chop the figs. In a bowl mix the corn meal with the plain flour.

In a large sauce pan bring the water to the boil then slowly, whilst mixing all the time, add the flours with a pinch of salt. Stir well to avoid the formation of lumps.

Making Pinza polenta cake

Cook the polenta for 20 minutes over a gentle heat whilst stirring all the time.

When it is cooked add the sugar and the butter. Mix well then add the roughly chopped almonds, the pinenuts, the diced apple, the sultanas (drained from the liquor), the orange zest and the sifted baking powder. Mix well.

You might find it hard to mix it just with a spoon, as the mixture is so thick, use your hands like I have done. Much easier.

Mix well and pour the mixture onto a well buttered round baking tin with a diameter of approx 28 cm or 11 inch. Press well on top so the surface will be even.

Pinza della Marantega - fruit and nut polenta cake

Sprinkle with fennel seeds and cook at 200C or 390F for the first 25 minutes then turn the heat down at 180C or 350F and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes until golden on top. It will be cooked when the top looks slightly wrinkly and the edges detach from the sides of the pan.

Switch the oven off and let the cake cool down in the oven with the door left adjar.

Enjoy it with a glass of sweet dessert wine.

Pinza, fruit and nut polenta cake for Epiphany

Happy Epiphany day! Buona Epifania!

The Italian Befana

Italian polenta fruit and nut cake - Pinza

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21 Responses to Pinza, the Italian Epiphany polenta cake from Veneto

  1. Mary Quinn

    Looks like an interesting recipe to try. Question though, how much is a “drop” of grappa?

    • Alida

      It is about 50 ml or 1.7 fl oz. You need just enough to soak the raisins.

  2. gloria

    looks absolutely delicious ! xoxo

    • Alida

      Grazie tesoro

  3. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    I have never had a pinza…wish I could taste some now. It looks so good!
    Is cornmeal flour same as polenta meal?

    Happy New Year, Alida.

    • Alida

      Yes it is as polenta is made out of ground corn flour

  4. speedy70

    Sììììì la conosco questa torta di polenta, buonissima!!!!

  5. Lisa

    What an interesting cake! I haven’t come across this one yet. I love polenta in all its forms so I need to make it, I think! Auguri per la Befana!

    • Alida

      I can definitely recommend it! It is nice and filling too.

  6. All That I'm Eating

    I love the idea of this Alida, a great celebration to have in a grey January.

    • Alida

      Yes we need a few pick me ups in January

  7. Agness of Run Agness Run

    Wow! This seems like an indeed tasty and nutrient-dense recipe, Alinda! It must be a finger-licking breakfast idea! 😉

    • Alida

      Certainly very filling but healthy at the same time.

  8. elisabetta

    What a delicious cake! How lovely to hear that your daughter celebrates her birthday on the feast of the Epiphany. Those Three Wise Men certainly brought the perfect gift to you and hubby!!

    • Alida

      You are sweet 🙂 I guess since I was a child I was always so obsessed with la befana (more than Father Christmas or ” Gesu’ Bambino” like we used to call him) that my daughter was born on that day!

  9. Eva

    Brings back childhood memories of my Nonna. She was a terrible cook (God love her) but her friend Julia made the best pinza ever! Can’t wait to try out your version.

    • Alida

      We love our nonna’s don’t we? I make this every year, you will love it!

  10. Elisa

    I have an elder gentleman neighbor who was born in a small town of Veneto and he said to me how much he misses a good sweet polenta cake. This morning I was looking for a recipe that I could bake for him and I stumbled into your website and I am excited that is a recipe from Veneto! I hope I can make it the way it looks in your pic….He will be so happy!

    • Alida

      Polenta adds some sort of “crunchiness” to cakes and they are very tasty. I hope your neighbour enjoys it. Happy baking!

  11. Frank Fariello

    What a lovely, “homey” cake. Sadly, Epiphany is not a “thing” here in the US, but I always celebrate it anyway with a good friend of mine and her family. Best wishes for 2020!

    • Alida

      The same here. In the UK we don’t celebrate Epiphany but the children still get a stocking from la Befana. I miss this celebration though! Happy new year to you too Frank.

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