Sweet Sicily: authentic dessert recipes

Want to recreate the buccellatini and torta you’ve scoffed in Sicily? These recipes bring a slice of island indulgence to your home kitchen.


The buccellato is a sweet pastry containing a rich filling of pumpkin jam, almonds, walnuts, candied fruit, honey, raisins and chocolate, flavoured with grated orange zest and cinnamon. The key ingredient of this stuffing is dried figs, that even today can be seen in the Sicilian countryside during the summer, skewered on canes and left in the sun to dry for the preparation of winter confectionery. The most common shape is round like a doughnut, with decorative cuts that allow glimpses of the delicious stuffing, but smaller bite-sized buccellatini are also made.

Sicilian sweet with dried figs and pastry (Shutterstock)
Sicilian sweet with dried figs and pastry (Shutterstock)

For the dough:
500 g (18 oz) flour
275 g (10 oz) butter
175 g (1 cup) sugar
2 tbsps Marsala
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
grated zest of 1 orange

For the filling:
250 g (9 oz) dried figs
80 g (3 oz) pumpkin jam
100 g (3½ oz) toasted almonds
100 g (3½ oz) walnut kernels
25 g (1 oz) pistachios
25 g (1 oz) plain chocolate
80 ml (3 tbsps) Marsala raisins
2 crushed cloves ground cinnamon grated zest of 1 orange

Begin with the dough: make a well of flour, pour in all the ingredients and work first with a fork and then by hand. Keep aside a little milk and use as needed, working the dough until it is compact and smooth. Place in the refrigerator.

Soak the figs in hot water, drain, chop finely with a knife and toast on a low heat together with the jam and honey. Remove the mixture from the heat, add the other ingredients along with the dried fruit and coarsely chopped chocolate; mix well.

Roll the dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin, place the filling, which should be compact, in the centre, wet one side of the rectangle with beaten egg and close the dough around the filling, forming a bundle. Pierce the buccellato with a crimping tool or the prongs of a fork, brush with beaten egg and bake at 180 °C (355 °F) until golden brown.

Leave the buccellato to cool, then glaze with unflavoured gelatin and garnish with candied fruit or sugar sparkles.

Torta Savoia

For the Savoia sheets:
6 eggs
70 g (1/3 cup) sugar
35 g (1 oz) honey
70 g (½ cup) flour
35 g (¼ cup) corn starch

For the filling:
200 g (7 oz) hazelnut praline
300 g (10 oz) dark chocolate
35 g (¼ cup) confectioner’s sugar

For the frosting:
400 g (14 oz) dark chocolate

Sicilian torta setteveli (Shutterstock)
Sicilian torta setteveli (Shutterstock)

Whisk the eggs and sugar at length, add the honey, stirring, and sieve in the flour and corn starch. Pour the mixture onto an oven tray to a height of 3 mm (1/10 in) and bake at 180 °C (355 °F) until brown. Repeat the operation until the dough is finished, keeping in mind that the cake requires six ‘sheets’. Once cooled, cut rounds with a pastry cutter of the desired diameter, and set aside.

In a double boiler melt the hazelnut praline with the chocolate. Add the confectioner’s sugar and leave to cool. Assemble  the cake by spreading the cream on all the sheets, except the last, then place in the refrigerator, using a cake tin to keep in shape. Tip the cake onto a wire rack.

Temper the chocolate by chopping and melting 2/3 in a microwave until it reaches a temperature of 45‒50 °C (115‒120 °F). Add the remaining chocolate and stir. The chocolate is ready when it reaches a temperature of 30‒31 °C (86‒88 °F). Pour into the centre of the cake and spread evenly with a spatula.