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Pastiera (traditional Neapolitan cake)

  • 2 hours
  • Medium
  • Desserts and Fruit
This rich Easter cake from Naples has a flavor all of its own.


  • 5 oz butter
  • 4 oz confectioners sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • ½ lb granulated sugar
  • ½ lb cooked wheat
  • 3 oz milk
  • 3 eggs
  • lemon zest, grated
  • 1 oz orange flower water
  • vanilla to taste
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 3 oz mixed candied fruit
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 oz confectioners sugar
  • salt


Step 1

Put the flour and butter into a food mixer, mix until grainy.

Pastiera - step 1

Step 2

Then blend in the yolks, the powdered sugar, the vanilla and mix further (being careful not to over-mix).

Pastiera - step 2

Step 3

When the dough is ready, wrap it in cling-film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.

Pastiera - step 3

Step 4

Roll the dough to a thickness of 0.2 inch, use it to line a cake pan and prick the pastry all over with a fork.

Pastiera - step 4

Step 5

Put the ricotta into a bowl with the sugar and mix together.

Pastiera - step 5

Step 6

Finish by adding all the ingredients for the filling, mixing together well, and taking care not to let it collapse.

Pastiera - step 6

Step 7

When the filling is finished lay it in the lined cake pan.

Pastiera - step 7

Step 8

Make strips of pastry and lay them crisscross across the top of the cake like a fruit flan. Bake at 360°F for about 1hour and 30 minutes.

Pastiera - step 8

Chef's tips

The filling must be particularly soft, but not too moist.
It is preferable to use a ricotta containing part ewe’s milk.
The wheat must be well-cooked.
Before removing from the tray, wait until it has cooled enough.This is a dessert served at room temperature which requires a long preparation time.
What is characteristic about the cake is the use of the wheat and the ricotta cheese.  Moreover, its characteristic aroma is based around the Millefiori essence.

Food History

Neapolitan pastiera is an Easter cake and, according to tradition, every family in Naples prepares one during Holy Week to be eaten on Easter day. The recipe for this cake probably derives from the breads made from milk and honey that were commonly eaten during the baptism ceremonies the night of Easter when Constatine was Emperor. The modern version of this cake was invented at the convent of San Gregorio Armeno, which at the time was located in Naples. A nun decided to make a cake using the ingredients that symbolized life and the resurrection. However, there is another ancient legend surrounding the creation of the pastiera. Some believe that the siren Partenope would come out from the water of the Gulf of Naples every spring, delighting people with her lovely songs. Apparently on year, the people of Naples fell so in love with her songs that they decided to offer her the most precious products of their land. Seven of the most beautiful girls of the area gave the beautiful siren flour, ricotta, eggs, wheat, orange flower water and spices, including cinnamon and sugar. Partenope, thrilled with her gifts, decided to return to her home under the sea and to offer her gifts to the Gods. To honor her beauty, the Gods mixed the ingredients together, creating a cake as delicious as the voice of the siren: la pastiera napoletana.

Did you known that...

The Neopolitan pastiera was the only thing that could cheer up Queen Maria Teresa of Hapsburg? After her husband, Ferdinand II of Bourbon, the King of the two Sicilies, was able to convince her to taste the slice of pastiera, the Queen, also known as the “queen who never smiles,” smiled in satisfaction.

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