Flour, candied fruit, dried fruit, sugar, cocoa and spices (especially nutmeg and cinnamon), all wrapped in a extra-dark chocolate casing, make Pampapato (or Pampepato) di Ferrara a most delicious sweet.
Low in fat (the only fat comes from the almonds), and with no eggs or milk in the dough, this confection is perfect for those of us on a diet, but still looking for something sweet to satisfy our palates. The unique fragrance and flavour of this cake is dominated by chocolate, which is layered with spiced notes from ingredients such as nutmeg, cinnamon, candied fruit and toasted almonds.
According to the most authoritative sources, the origins of this cake are said to date back to around the 16th century, to the cloister convent of the Corpus Domini di Ferrara, where nuns would make a spiced bread to send as a gift to the high prelates during the Christmas season. Indeed, at end of the lavish banquets of the Este court, it was tradition to serve desserts resembling bread seasoned with spices.
Pampapato followed this tradition: it was so delicious that it was deemed only fit for a pope, which is why it came to be shaped in the form of a cardinal's headwear.
It was only later, in 1902, when chocolate came onto the scene, which of course was unheard of in the 1500s, that this spiced cake was declared a long-lasting success.
Today, the PGI label, highly coveted by companies making this sweet bread in Ferrara, certifies that Pampapato is made according to precise specifications validated by the European Commission; this is important recognition that places Pampepato on the list of certified food and wine specialities from across the Emilia-Romagna region.