Italian Christmas Tree Cake with Lemon Curd and Limoncello

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Italian Christmas tree cake I know it’s definitely Christmas time when I start to see all the colorful boxes of panettone and pandoro sold in almost every store I walk into. Both breads are decadent and sweet and most Italians love to eat them for dessert and breakfast, as well as giving them out as gifts during the holidays.

The difference between the two is that panettone is studded with nuts and dried fruits and pandoro is plain, no fruit or nuts but rich in butter and egg like a fluffy brioche, golden in color and baked in a pretty star- shaped pan.

pandoro You can make pandoro into a Christmas tree shape by cutting the star-shaped loaf horizontally and then rotating the layers.

It’s fun to make, very festive and it doesn’t take long to put it together, it can be a fun project to do with your kids and the best part is, there’s no baking involved!

christmas tree cake Here I made an adult version by brushing the layers with limoncello. In the past I’ve used Amaretto, which is equally amazing, but feel free to eliminate the liqueur all together if you want, it’s not necessary.

Then there’s the mascarpone and whipped cream mix, together they create a nice stable consistency which will hold your cake together and give you that look of “snow”. I also folded in some good quality, store-bought lemon curd into the whipped cream mixture, I’ll just let you imagine how good it is, no words needed.

For a kids version think Nutella swiped onto the layers along with the whipped cream and mascarpone mixture.

Honestly the flavor possibilities are endless as well as the decorating part. You can put fresh berries on the star points to make it look like ornaments and if you don’t want fresh fruit you can use candied cherries, sprinkles, crushed candy canes, shaved chocolate, edible stars. The baking isle of your store will give you a ton of inspiration.

You can make a nice presentation for your holiday table by decorating your serving platter with some fake greenery and pine cones like I did, or just wander into a craft store to get your own awesome ideas.

christmas tree cake

The fun part is decorating the very top, I found an acrylic star ornament that I can reuse, I just cut off the string and popped it into the cake. Here again the possibilities are endless, you could even use one of your own decorated cookies, that would be a really nice touch.

christmas tree cakechristmas tree cake

I hope you give this a try and if you do I would love to see all your creations!

Follow me on Instagram where you can see what else I’m cooking up daily during the holidays.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Italian Christmas Tree Cake with Lemon Curd and Limoncello
  • 1 large Pandoro
  • ½ cup of Limoncello or other liqueur (optional)
  • 1 small jar of good quality store-bought lemon curd 10 oz. ( You won't use it all)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temp
  • 2 heaping tablespoons, powdered sugar
  • edible stars, white pearl sprinkles or anything else you want to decorate with
  • A topper for your tree cake, I used a star ornament
  • platter decorations
  1. Turn the Pandoro on it's side and carefully cut six slices horizontally.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar, cream well beating with a mixer.
  3. Next add the heavy cream into the mascarpone mixture, beating well into stiff peaks, not soft and loose.
  4. Fold in lemon curd, start with a heaping tablespoon and keep adding more to taste and stiffness of the cream mixture, remember you don't want it runny.
  5. Place the largest slice onto your serving platter.
  6. Brush first layer with limoncello, if not using liqueur just brush the layer with a thin swipe of lemon curd.
  7. Spread cream mixture all over the top.
  8. Top with the next largest slice making sure to angle it so the points of the star do not align.
  9. Repeat with the limoncello and cream mixture on each layer and finally the top.
  10. At this point you can refrigerate it over night and decorate it closer to the time you will be serving it. I've done it hours before. Try not to serve it ice cold from the fridge, let it sit out a little.
  11. To cut remover layer by layer and cut into serving size, when you get towards the bottom you can cut into wedges.
  12. Remember, the skies the limit on flavor and decorating, make it your own!


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  1. Merry Christmas Marie! Just finished my (your) tree and it look wonderful! Wish I could send you a picture of my first attempt. Can’t wait to bring it to my sis in law’s house tonight. It will be a great end to our seven fishes. Buon Natale!

  2. This is beautiful, Marie! I’m wondering if you know of a place I can purchase a pandoro pan. I would love to make one myself.

    • Joann, They are readily available in Italian markets this time of year, even local grocery stores, HomeGoods, and if all else fails you can order it on Amazon

  3. So lovely! Too pretty to eat, but I’m sure it tastes delicious.

  4. So pretty! What is the best way to cut/serve this? Thank you!

    • I put the instructions at the bottom of the recipe Laura but basically you remove layer by layer and cut into serving size and when you get towards the bottom you’ll be able to cut it into wedges.

  5. This is absolutely one of my favorite recipes for Christmas. Try with some Strega if you can find it and you’ll see how great it is!

  6. Patricia Vastalo says

    I’d love to have your recipes for the ravioli dough and fillings. I have not had success finding a pasta dough that freezes well. The frozen ravioli fall apart when I place them in simmering water. What’s your secret? I have the ravioli forms and the pasta roller but I’m ready to give up! There’s just 2 of us in the household, so when I make a batch of ravioli, some have to be frozen. I really enjoy your blog and you’ve inspired me to make the Italian Christmas cake with the grandchildren for our dessert on the 25th. They’ll be over the moon! Thank you for writing such a wonderful blog. The pics are gorgeous too.

    • Patricia, I’m so excited that you’re making the Christmas cake, please send me a picture of your creation. I will send you my ravioli recipe but please look over all my ravioli posts many times I have addressed your questions. It could be your dough, also I only go up to the number 5 with the pasta attachment. let me know how it all goes for you!

  7. tried to leave a omment a minute ago and I think I lost it along the way. Living in Italy makes it a tad difficult to find american ingredients. I’m okay here with pandoro, limoncello, and mascarpone. Will drive 45 min south to get lemon curd. What can I do about the heavy whipping cream??? I have boxes of panna by Parmalat but don’t know if can be substituted. Suggestions?

    • Hello Cheryl, I did receive your other comment, I had to Google what panna was I wasn’t familiar. It said it was thicker than our whipping cream and our sour cream. I think it would work because you can thin it out with the lemon curd to make it more spreadable on the layers. It actually sounds like it would work really well! Let me know how it goes.

  8. Help! Living in Italy makes it hard to translate some ingredients!! I’m definitely okay with pandoro and limoncello and mascarpone, will have to travel about 45 min south to get my hands on lemon curd but it’s do-able, but what can I use for heavy whipping cream? Will a box of panna suffice or should I look for something else? not all ingredients translate well, LOL

  9. This looks so pretty, Marie! Half of my Christmas Eve guests eat gluten free, so I wonder if I can find a gluten free version of Pandoro –will check Amazon. I would not want to torture the GF guests by bringing this fabulous creation to the table and then they can’t eat it. I usually bake a small gf cake and the cut it up and make a trifle with it–equally delicious with the mascarapone cream!

  10. Gorgeous, Marie! I am now ‘hooked’ on panettone AND pandoro (lemon, my favorite) because of you!!! 🙂 I made breakfast bread pudding out of the pannetone last Christmas. The lemon pandoro was devoured as dessert. I now want to learn to bake both from scratch as we don’t have a lot of pandoro around here. I ordered it from Eataly. Thanks again for another great recipe and lovely pictures…Merry Christmas, Marie!

    • Merry Christmas Ellen, ha so happy you’re hooked! It’s sinfully delicious isn’t it? There are many adventurous people like you that make it from scratch, I applaud them, not me though, I’m surrounded by them fortunately. You can always check Amazon for Pandoro too.

  11. I love the looks of it. I can’t wait to make one. I have made homemade pandoro before so I’ll give it a go from the bread to the end! I love the lemony “oro” look of the bread. A great keeper recipe!!

  12. I’ve never made the amaretto version, but having made a Limoncello/lemon curd version and a chocolate mousse version last year, I know how easy and delicious this can be, so I know I’ll be making this again this year. I was just thinking about getting some pandoro while there’s still a lot to choose from in the stores. Your photos are mouthwatering Marie, and I love how you chose that pretty backdrop and star for the top.

  13. This looks beautiful and tasty! I am excited to try this for my holiday table, but am not sure how to cut to serve? Do you cut pieces from top layer and proceed down the cake, or disassemble before serving? Can you give me any tips?

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