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Sicilian Christmas Fig Cake

(Serves 10-12)
A fig and nut filled ring called a buccellato heralds Christmas in Sicily.  Buccellato is also given by godparents to their godchild and family on the christening day.  The cake is supposed to be as large as possible to ensure good luck.  We are also providing you Step-by-Step Photos for Forming a Buccellato and a recipe for Buccellatini, which are simply mini versions of the large cake.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried figs
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/2 cup Marsala or rum
Juice and zest of one orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sugar Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Chopped pistachios
Colored candy sprinkles (optional)
Candied fruit or maraschio cherries (optional)


To make the pastry:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Mix until blended.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix until the ingredients form a dough.  Gather the dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk.  Wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or as long as overnight.

To make the filling:
In a food processor, combine the figs and walnuts.  Pulse to chop coarsely.
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the currants or raisins. Add the Marsala or rum, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, and optional cloves.  Cover and allow the mixture to sit for 2-3 hours to absorb the liquid.  Then stir in the honey and chopped chocolate.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
Grease a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

To  shape and bake the buccellato:
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a rectangle. Roll out into an 18 x 9-inch rectangle.  Spoon the filling lengthwise in a 3-inch strip down the center of the dough.  Lift one long side of the dough over the filling.  Fold the other side over the top of the first.  Press to seal.  Gently transfer the log, seam side down, onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bring the ends together to form a ring.  Pinch ends together to seal.  Use a fork to pierce the dough from top to bottom in rows about 1/2-inch apart.  Alternately, use a sharp knife to make a series of decorative slashes around the cake.  Bake until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10  minutes.  Transfer the cake to the rack to cool completely.

To make the sugar icing:
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar and vanilla.  Add water a tablespoon at a time, until the icing is smooth.  Icing should be fairly thick but pourable.

Brush the cake with the sugar icing.  While the icing is still wet, decorate it with chopped pistachios.  Add decorative sprinkles, candied fruit, and/or cherries, if desired.  Serve at room temperature.  To store, wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 3 days.
Roll the dough into a sheet 1/4-inch thick.
Cut 3-inch circles with a pastry cutter. Moisten the edges with water. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each. Fold the dough over to form half-moons. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 325 degree F. oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.
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Buccellato - Sicilian Christmas Fig Cake
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Buccellato - Sicilian Christmas Fig Cake
Step-by-Step Making a Buccellato
Allow the filling to sit for 3 hours to absorb all the liquid
Spoon the filling down the center of the 18 x 9-inch rectangle of dough
Lift one side of dough over the filling and then the other; press the edges to seal
Transfer the log, seam side down, to a prepared baking sheet
Bring the ends together to form a ring; pinch to seal into a seamless ring
Use a fork to pierce the dough from top to bottom in rows about 1/2-inch apart.  Bake.
After the cake has cooled, brush with icing and decorate.
Cut the buccellato into wedges to serve
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