With the Bologna Certosino (Chartreuse cake) I want to introduce you to a typical Christmas cake of Bologna cuisine, with almonds, pine nuts, unsweetened chocolate, and candied fruit. It is almost unknown out of Emilia-Romagna region: sadly, the fame of many regional cakes is clouded by industrial products, which I am not a great fan of.
This cake is called panspeziale (apothecaries’ bread) – a kind of gingerbread, since in Middle Age it was created and baked by apothecaries (speziali).
Later, the Bologna Chartreuse friars began to bake it, and it was named after them. Other scholars believe the origin of his name is due to “special bread” (pan spzièl ) in Bologna dialect.

After careful historic researches, in the summer of 2003, Bologna delegation of Academy of Italian Cuisine deposit at Bologna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture, the official recipe of Certosino.
This one, nevertheless, is not the canonic recipe but my mum’s, since that, like in all families, there is always the addition of little personal touches.

chocolate truffles with rum, coffee,Amaretti cookies
Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yields: it serves 10


  • ¾ cup (100 g.) whole almonds, peeled
  • ¾ cup (100 g.) pine nuts
  • 1 cup (100 g.) dried figs, in chunks
  • ¾ cup (100 g.) raisins
  • 1 cup (100 g.) walnuts
  • 7 oz (g. 200) diced candied fruit mix
  • 21 oz. (g. 600) whole candied fruit (orange, cherries, cedar)
  • 1-tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1-teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups (250 g.) pastry flour
  • ½-cup (100 g.) white sugar
  • ¾ cup (80 g.) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-teaspoon baking soda
  • Tepid water


Heat the oven, 350 F. (180 C.)
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, adding the diced mixed fruit, except the candied ones which must be left in a whole.
Pour the mixture in a baking pan, previously covered with parchment. Use the candied fruits to decorate the top of the mix and bake it for 40 minutes at 350 F. (180 C.).
Check with a wooden toothpick if it is cooked. If the stick is still wet, add 10 minutes.

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About the Author

Growing up in Emilia Romagna, a region known for Parmesan, Parma ham, lasagna, and filled pasta, a great deal of my childhood was spent in the kitchen with my grandmother and mother.

Even at a very young age, I could see that for them cooking was a passionate expression of their love for their family. While I’m filled with many warm memories of watching them cook, what I remember most is circling the table and watching the stove, waiting for any opportunity I could to steal a taste.