Spongata di Natale
Christmas pie from Emilia and Tuscany
Spongata di natale is a typical Christmas cake from the Emilie region and northern Tuscany. There are great local variations as regards filling, but the outcome is not unlike panpepato or a crumbly English mince pie.
According to Wikipedia spongata di natale is an ancient Jewish recipe most likely introduced as a gift to the Duke of Milan 550 years ago. Today the cakes are produced by craft bakers in Pontremoli, Sarzana and Busseto outside of Parma, but the tradition also lives on in Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Massa-Carrara and La Spezia.
The name spongata probably derives from the noun spongia meaning sponge as a reference to the knobbly and irregular surface of the cake.