Christmas treats in South Tyrol: The Zelten Cake

A typical South Tyrolean Christmas specialty for your sweet tooth
The Zelten cake was traditionally made and then given away as a gift for Christmas by farmers‘ wives. Everybody got a taste of it- maids and farmhands were presented with the sweet fruit cake and even the animals in the stable were allowed to snack on it, as to bring good luck also into the “Stodl” (the barn). Today the Zelten cake, also dubbed Christmas bread, is baked all over South Tyrol along with other delicious treats during the Christmas season – it’s considered a specialty.

There are many different Zelten recipes, but in all of them you will find the following core ingredients: dried figs, raisins and candied fruit, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pine nuts, a bit of red wine, honey, rum, some orange, cinnamon, clove powder, ground nutmeg, a bit of bread dough made from rye and wheat flour, fennel seeds and aniseeds, salt, yeast and honey.

And here is one of the recipes - it bakes 8 loafs (250 g each)

600 g dried figs
250 g raisins
100 g candied fruit
per loaf 100 g mixed nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts and blanched almonds
50 g pine nuts
1/8 l South Tyrolean dry red wine
70 g South Tyrolean honey
2 tbsp. rum
1 untreated orange
1 heaped tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. clove powder
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Bread dough:
1/8 tsp. aniseeds
1/8 tsp. fennel seeds
125 g whole grain rye flour
75 g white wheat flour
1 pinch of salt
20 g fresh yeast
1 tsp. South Tyrolean honey

To brush the top:
70 g sugar

Top and garnish:
Almond halves, walnut kernels, candied fruit, dried figs and raisins. Chop raisins and candied fruit, chop walnuts and pine nuts finely or coarsely and mix in a bowl. Heat wine together with honey until the latter reaches a fluid state. Then mix with rum and add to the fruit. Mix thoroughly, cover and let it rest overnight.
The next morning, lightly toast aniseeds and fennel seeds for the dough and then chop them up as finely as possible. Throw both of the flours, salt and seeds into a bowl and mix. Crush the yeast and stir with the honey in 140 ml of warm water. Now add the honey and yeast to the flour mix, knead the whole mass into a smooth and rather moist dough. Put it into a bowl, cover it with a cloth and set it in a warm spot to let it rise for about an hour.
Wash the orange with hot water, dry with a cloth and finely grate the peel. Add to the dough together with spices and the fruit-and-nut-mix. Thoroughly mix and knead everything until you have smooth and compact dough. Preheat oven at 160 °C (top and bottom heat, no fan). Cover baking tray with baking paper. Divide fruit dough into 8 servings and shape them into balls, press them flat to about 2cm.
Place loafs side by side on the tray, top the surface of the Zelten with almonds, walnuts and candied fruit.
Stir and dissolve sugar in 4 tbsp. of hot water. Brush the Zelten cakes with it and bake in the preheated oven (middle) for about 45 minutes. Continually check and brush with sugar water. Let the Zelten cakes cool down. Wrap them in cling film individually. Let them rest for 2 weeks preferably before consumption.

The Zelten tastes best with a glass of milk or a fruity punch. Have fun baking this goodie and enjoy the sweetness!

This website uses cookies. The use of cookies is regulated in European Directive 2009/136/EC (E-Privacy). We also use the Facebook pixel and Remarketing technologies from Google. By clicking on "OK" you agree. To protect your privacy, you can customize your preference management regarding online advertising in the current browser here. To stop third-party tracking technologies used on this website from using your information for personalized online advertising, click "Opt-Out".