How many Kostelniks does it take to screw up an Italian Christmas cake?

Mario Bartali raves about the Italian cakes he sells at his cleverly named Chicago restaurant, Eataly. The Bauli description does sound heavenly with phrases like “irresistible fragrance,” “amazingly fresh,” “extraordinary,” and “a magical moment.”

Also, I think my sister Jenny may have been influenced by the pretty purple packaging when she picked up Il Pandoro to serve at our family Christmas party.

In retrospect, a traditional Italian Christmas Cake may have been a poor choice. We’re Polish, after all, our holiday recipes start and end with cabbage.

Opening Pandoro’s box just seemed wrong for us, so when my adorable niece Erin, Molly and I eventually ripped apart the carton and discovered directions written entirely in Italian, we should have heeded Epimetheus’ age-old warnings and stopped there.

We stubbornly pressed on.

I determined, based on my Olive Garden honed mastery of the Italian language, that the cake should be placed near a radiator. (Looking back, I don’t think the word radiator appears in the directions at all.) But I digress.

“It says you should place it near a radiator,” I said, all cocky and in charge.

“We don’t have radiators,” my sister helpfully pointed out.

“We’ll put it on top of the toaster oven,” I said with great authority and absolutely no clue.

Only my mother had the good sense to hover.

“You can’t put that thing on the toaster over,” she said. “You’ll start a fire.”

Pfft, kitchen fires. Who hasn’t put out a couple of those?

“I’ve got this,” I said.

We wrestled a bit over my plans and ended up tearing the cake’s protective plastic covering, which turned out to be a problem when, per our Italian directions, we  poured in the powdered sugar packet and shook it up.

Pfft, powered sugar kitchen showers. Who hasn’t cleaned up a couple of those?

Fortunately for us, our little helper Erin had the good sense to whip up one of her famous nutter butter cookie cakes, because our “light and delicious” Italian Christmas treat ended up uneatable.

Wesołych Świąt and pass the halupki.

Il Pandoro listed like the Tower of Pisa by the time I finished translating the directions.
Il Pandoro listed like the Tower of Pisa by the time I finished translating the directions.
Il Pandoro as big as her head
Fashionably coordinated to match a pastry box as big as her head, Erin got things started.
Il Pandoro puzzling packaging
These girls tried every corner of that cake box to gain entry.
Il Pandoro kitchen knife and nutter butter cookie cake
Eventually, Molly hauled out a large kitchen knife, while Erin stood helpfully at the ready with her plate of Nutter Butter Cookie Cake.
Il Pandoro aha the directions
The traditional ripping off of the cake box, just like they do it in Sicily.
Il Pandoro skepticism
Molly expresses some skepticism that we will ever gain entry.
Il Pandoro Italian directions
Our Italian instructions, which I helpfully translated without actually understanding a single word.
Il Pandoro on the toaster oven
Trust me, it made sense at the time.
Il Pandoro and the nutter butter cookie cake
The Leaning Tower of Pandoro and a lovely plate of Nutter Butter Cookie Cake, waiting for its ice cream.
Il Pandoro cutting the cake
Molly did the honors, under the watchful/bossy eye of Erin.
Il Pandoro just in case
Erin served her delicious cake…
Il Pandoro inglorius end
…while Il Pandoro came to an inglorious end.

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