Colomba Muffins

If you’ve never been to Italy at Easter time, you’re probably not familiar with the traditional (and delicious) colomba, or “Dove Cake,” and you’re missing out.

The Colomba is Easter’s answer to the Christmastime panettone and pandoro, the rich and fluffy cake is traditionally made with natural yeast that takes at least 30 hours to rise. After curing, the dough is then baked into the iconic dove shape and finally topped with pearl sugar and almonds. It’s beautiful, and ethereal, and delicious, and I will never make one from scratch.

I adore a good, artisanal, freshly-baked colomba this time of year, but I don’t love any dessert enough to endure the multiple rising times, endless steps, and uncertain outcome of a home-made colomba. Hence, the colomba muffin!

Obviously, the dough is much-semplified and lacks the airy, bread-like texture of a true colomba, but these muffins are delicious in their own right. I’m always tempted to eat the entire, crunchy-sweet-almond-flecked top off a colomba cake when no one is looking, so I appreciate the higher top-to-cake ratio of these muffins. The almond-flavored, candied orange studded dough is sweetly reminiscent of the traditional Easter colomba.

So if you can’t get your hands on a real colomba cake this year, I suggest you celebrate with these adorable and tasty imitations. You won’t regret it!

And while we’re on the topic, let me take this chance to wish you all a Happy Easter!

Colomba Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons (70 g) butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 c (160 ml) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup (70 g) candied orange peel, diced
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup (70 g) almonds
  • 2/3 cup pearl sugar
for 12 muffins

Preheat oven to 330°F (17o°C). Prepare 12 muffin cups and line with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with electric egg beaters for 4-5 minutes, until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, then stir in the milk. Add the grated lemon and orange zests and the almond flour. Stir in the flour mixture, almond extract and candied orange peel. Stir gently to combine.

In a new bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold a third of the egg whites into the dough gently, then add the rest of the egg whites. Careful not to over-mix at this point or you will deflate the whites.

Divide the dough between the 12 muffin cups, filling only 2/3 full. Sprinkle each muffin with pearl sugar and almonds.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Serve, and enjoy!

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