Torcolo di San Costanzo. The Umbrian Soft Fruitcake

As you all know by now, I grew up in Perugia, Umbria, (Italy) where almost every dessert has a long history. This one is no exception:  San Costanzo was a Bishop, Martyr and Saint who lived around 179AD. As for many of the Christian Saints, his death didn’t come easily.

Upon being convicted to be executed, St. Costanzo was going to be immersed in boiling water. Well, that didn’t work and the Saint came out unscathed from it. The Bishop was then sent back to jail where he managed to convert his keepers to Christianity. The guards in turn helped him escape. His new found freedom didn’t last long: Costanzo was captured again and decapitated which seems to have been the Roman’s standard foolproof execution method when all others failed.

Reminiscent of the flower wreath that was placed on his beheaded body, the Torcolo is round in shape. Also, the dough is slashed 5 times prior to baking to resemble the 5 doors through which one could access the town of Perugia, built on a hill and of which St. Costanzo still is one of the 3 Patrons.

san costanzo torcolo fruitcake
San Costanzo dall’Occhio adorno famme la grazia sinno’ n’c’artorno.

Eventually a namesake church was built for San Costanzo, with a larger than life Icon of the Patron. It is said the unmarried women on Jan 29 (the day the Saint is celebrated in Perugia) would go and pray. Apparently they would stare at the Icon incessantly to see if S. Costanzo would “blink” or wink at them. If he did, the girl (only the girl, never the future groom) would get married within the year. If not…..well….give them THE cake!!!

Traditions are fun and all, but a good slice of soft fruitcake and a cappuccino…….priceless!

Most of the fruitcakes I eat are dry and not much texture-appealing. Since I know better now, for the making of mine I use a Japanese technique. It helps the dough elasticity, moisture retention and spring.

san costanzo torcolo fruitcake

TORCOLO DI SAN COSTANZO  is soft and moist when it comes to fruitcakes.

Makes 2 large Torcoli (cakes)

Level: medium

Time: 5 hours


50 g flour

120 g water


600 g flour

1 1/2 T dry yeast

150 g sugar (less if you use some honey)

170 g raisins/currants soaked overnight in rum then drained well

220 g milk

50 g butter, at room temperature

35 g shortening

1 egg and 1 egg white (reserve the yolk for egg wash)

2 t salt

65 g Pine Nuts plus more optional for sprinkling on top

100 g candied zests of citrus

You can make your own with my recipe here:

2 T Anice seeds not powder

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t powdered cardamom

1 t vanilla extract


Prepare the Tangzhong  or water roux(even the night before) by mixing the flour and the liquid and bringing it to 65C or 149F or paste, custard-like consistency. Refrigerate.

Place the yeast, a pinch of the sugar and a bit of warm milk in the bowl of a mixer. When the yeast has activated, add all the remaining ingredients except the fats (butter and shortening and salt).

With the hook attachment mix the dough. When the mass has come together add the fats and make sure they are incorporated before adding the salt. The dough will be shiny and gooey after you mix it for about 8 minutes.

Let it double in volume, covered, away from cold air drafts. Divide it in half and shape each half in a round disk. You might need some more flour but it’s ok. Make sure to dust it off before baking.

Press your thumb in the center and open a hole in each cake, as large as an orange (will close upon baking so make it larger than you think)

Brush with egg yolk and let it rise to double in size again. When the size has increased to about 80%  pre heat the oven to 350F.

Brush the cakes again with egg wash, and make 5 small incisions around the perimeter on each one. Dust with pine nuts, Maraschino cherries or Sugar.

san costanzo torcolo fruitcake

Bake for about 40 min or until deep golden brown .

Enjoy for days. Keeps well in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 day…if you can make it last that long.

san costanzo torcolo fruitcake

Lightly re heat before eating or toast before dunking in coffee.


Pubblicato da growingupitalian

Salve! Vivo tra due mondi, ma con i piedi per terra. E' un lusso poter scegliere il meglio di entrambi. La vita mi ha fatto questo regalo, e lo voglio condividere con Voi!! Sono nata negli anni 60 in Italia. Il mondo della televisione in Bianco e Nero, senza cibi GMO, senza smart phones. La mia infanzia e' stata costellata di persone incredibili e memorie indelebili della mia famiglia. Ora, 50 anni dopo e 10 mila km di distanza apparte, tutte queste memorie hanno contribuito ad arricchire la mia vita ..dopotutto, una ragazza puo' lasciare l'Italia, ma l'Italia non lasciam mai le sue ragazze!.Hello all. I live in between two worlds (USA and Italy) but I'm really grounded. I believe it's a luxury to be able to pick and choose the best of both. I've been given that gift and I'm sharing it with you. I was born in the 60's in Italy. Black and White pictures, no GMO, no tablets, no computers or cell phones. My childhood was starred by people and memories. It sure takes a village to raise a child...and a great family. I was blessed to have all of the above. Now, fast forward 50 years, 10,000 kilometers away. My life is richer than ever because of my upbringing. I have stories...lots of stories I will share with you. Afterall, A GIRL might leave Italy, but Italy NEVER leaves the girl!

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