Gubana: Sweet Italian Easter Bread

March 30, 2010


Do you know what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks instead of doing my homework?

(Jeez, when was the last time I used the word ‘homework’! Like so totally cool right?! But I digress).

Anyway, I’ve been researching Easter foods! Gawd, I’m such a dag. Serious nerd territory here, but I have an endless geeky fascination with who ate what during religious festivals and holidays. To be honest, I wish I was learning about what ancient civilians ate and drank and how they partied instead of Roman military history. Sigh.



In any case I wanted to learn more about Easter foods past the de rigeur chocolate eggs and hot cross buns (though these buns have a pretty interesting history itself). Listen up my faithful students, because for this lesson, we are travelling to Northeast of Venice for a slice of Gubana.

Gubana is somewhat an Italian version of babka or kugelhopf. A curiously dense, almost dry cakey brioche-type bread with a filling of chocolate, raisins, nuts and booze. Awesome.


This traditional Easter bread hails from the Natisone Valleys to the east of Cividale del Friuli; a region northeast of Venice near the Austrian and Croatian borders. Thank you Google for making me sound geographically brilliant! Random fact about moi, it is Italy and in particular, around the Northern regions that I want to spend the rest of my life in; eating, getting fat and drunk on wines and grappa.


Want more Google magic for your buck? How about a historical story?

“A tale is told about a poor mum living in the Natisone Valleys who had nothing to sweeten the Christmas meals with. So she prepared for her children a cake made with what she had at home: flour, eggs, walnuts and honey. The regional tradition requires the “Gubana” as an unfailing presence for the high festivities, such as Christmas and Easter but also for wedding banquets; the bride and bridegroom used to present every guest with this delicious cake. The “Gubana” is a very well-known confectionery speciality, which was born in the green valleys the Natisone river runs through, creating a landscape of rare beauty a few kilometers east of Udine. The term “Gubana” is a Slovenian word deriving from “gubat”, which means “to roll up”. In the local dialect it is called “Gubanza”, which became “Gubana” in Italian.”


Thank you Google for writing most of my post! Now in my own intelligent and eloquent words; straight out of the oven, this sweet Italian bread kicks some serious boozy Easter ass.



Handy printable!


125ml milk
320g plain flour
14g instant dried yeast
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
60g unsalted butter, softened


150g hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and finely chopped
50g walnuts, roasted and finely chopped
2 Tbl of pine nuts, roasted
80g plain Italian sweet biscuits (like savoiardi) or brioche crumbs
85g raisins, roughly chopped
1/4 cup apricot jam
40g chopped glacé orange rind
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 Tbl dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbl sweet Marsala
1 Tbl Grappa
1 Tbl Amaretto

1 egg for eggwash


Place milk, 1 cup of the flour and yeast in a bowl and stir until smooth. Cover with clingwrap and in place in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes or until it becomes bubbly.

Place remaining flour, sugar, egg, egg yolk, lemon rind, vanilla and salt in a large bowl and stir. Add in the yeast mixture and stir until it forms a dough.

Add softened butter and knead into the dough with your hands until mixed.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour if it starts to get too sticky.

Place into a greased bowl and turn to coat the dough. Cover with clingwrap and leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

For the filling, place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to form a 25 x 45cm rectangle. Spread filling over the dough leaving a 3cm border.


Roll up the dough tightly lengthways to form a sausage shape and pinch the ends to seal.

Twist into a lightly greased 20cm springform tin to form a coil. Cover and leave for an hour, or until the dough has risen by a third. In the meantime preheat oven to 180°C.


Beat 1 egg for eggwash and brush the top of the Gubana and bake at 180°C for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C and bake for another 25 minutes or until a deep golden colour,

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Slice to serve. Store in airtight container.


Adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren April 19, 2013 at 07:40

In your research, have you come across Spanish saffron as a key ingredient for this cake? My grandmother makes this every Easter, and she claims that without saffron she can’t make it. This is her latest excuse to not teach me the recipe! Her father was a professional baker in Mali Losinj (Lussinpiccolo) Croatia around 1900, so I’m excited to find the correlating historical context in your post!


Citrus and Candy April 20, 2013 at 23:11

Hi Lauren! Unfortunately I haven’t come across much in the way of what was traditionally baked inside a Gubana but gosh, saffron sounds like an amazing addition! It’s a shame there isn’t enough info on it. But how amazing is it to have that history running in your family? Thank you so much for letting me know! And I certainly hope that your grandmother passes on her recipe to you soon (and if you are feeling ever so generous, I’d love for you to secretly share it with me too lol) x


Shauna December 14, 2010 at 18:17

This is the best recipe I've seen in a long time!


soupsandstarters April 25, 2010 at 06:31


Thanks for a wonderful recipe! It was the inspiration I needed to get blogging. Your recipe features on my first entry. :) Thanks again


Andrea April 16, 2010 at 06:49

Thnx defiantly helped me wiv MY homework


Anniw April 16, 2010 at 06:46

kwl looks delicious :-d


bake in paris April 2, 2010 at 03:37

Love the texture and filling. Very irresistable and scrumptious :-) Thanks for sharing!

Sawadee from Bangkok,


amber April 1, 2010 at 02:27

I can't get this recipe off my mind now! It reminds me of a delicious, twisty, chocolate-filled kugelhopf I ate in Melbourne last year. Yummmm…


ceecee March 31, 2010 at 21:18

This looks delicious! Great photos.


Cherine March 31, 2010 at 15:59

Beautiful and delicious! Your photos are FANTASTIC


Julia @ Mélanger March 31, 2010 at 10:27

I have a big weakness for sweet dough. I have never tried making this. It must go on my list!


Kaitlin March 30, 2010 at 23:14

This is going to make me sound, like, so totally juvenile, but you have such an awesome writing voice! This looks so incredible! I love the shots of it all sliced up.

I wish I had more time for Easter baking this year. Maybe I'll just have to give this a go in the summer? :)


Sara March 30, 2010 at 23:02

looks so delish


Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 30, 2010 at 14:31

Want someone else to eat, get fat and drunk on wines and grappa with? Lemme just finish my PhD and I'm all over this.

Oh yeah, just like I'd be all over the gubana if I had half a chance..


SimonFoodFavourites March 30, 2010 at 12:56

that's one special looking cake. i like your new photo credit label too :-)


Emma @CakeMistress March 30, 2010 at 12:03

Ooh, that's got tasty guts. Sure beats a dry Panettone


Phuoc'n Delicious March 30, 2010 at 11:59

That's so awesome! I love the swirl in the bread. Brava!


Reemski March 30, 2010 at 11:29

Karen, you have outdone yourself. Maybe I'll steal you and install you in my kitchen to bake treats like this for me!!


shaz March 30, 2010 at 11:00

Wow, it's so pretty. Thanks for the history lesson!


FFichiban March 30, 2010 at 08:55

Oohh nice pretty swirl! and love the sound of the ingredients hee hee


Fiona March 30, 2010 at 08:05

Do the greek one with Eggs in it!


taz March 30, 2010 at 05:38

wow, that looks amazingly delicious!


the food addicts March 30, 2010 at 05:13

gubana is something i've never had the pleasure of eating before! but i'm a fan of sweet bread (like hawaiian bread). great post – the photos are beautiful. i love the swirl you created in the bread.


linda March 30, 2010 at 04:09

do you even know how evil your posts are? I'm on a diet, but each time I read your blog, your photos are so drool worthy!! The fillings for this cake looks awesome, I lurve hazelnuts


Kristy March 30, 2010 at 03:53

I opened the page, took one look at the first picture and went "yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm"
This looks so incredibly good!


iron chef shellie March 30, 2010 at 03:34

LOL! i love when Google can help you write most of your post for you :P

Damn it looooks amazing!


bily@atablefortwo March 30, 2010 at 03:32

That is so gorgeous! Like a giant Muffin! HAHAHAHA…


ladyironchef March 30, 2010 at 02:56

why does the bread kind of looks like a cake to me? maybe it's like a bread cake? LOL


wizzythestick March 30, 2010 at 02:46

This bread looks so amazing. In the unlikely event that there might be leftovers -can it be stored in the freezer? LOL.Actually I'm asking in case I want to bake ahead of an event. Does it freeze well? Your pictures are fabulous


vicvickvicky March 30, 2010 at 01:55

Swirls and twirls of yummy goodness make everything this much better! Imagine, if you MIGHT not be able to finish it, the wonders of it in a bread and butter pudding. ooooh, magic overload!


Kelly March 30, 2010 at 00:40

Holy crap that looks good. Found you via foodgawker. This sounds A M A Z I N G. Thanks for sharing!

Off to google "grappa"…


Betty@The HungryGirl March 29, 2010 at 23:40

All your bread posts are really making me crave bread… seriously. I went to baker's delight this morning and got an unsatisfying-something because of this craving!! Btw, I'll come & get fat on good food & wine with you in Italy :)


Anh March 29, 2010 at 22:05

You have done your research well, my dear. The bread looks awesome! Love love it!


Patty March 29, 2010 at 16:58

Incredible! I love it. It's like chocolate panforte rolled-up in a sweet bread – yum. Thanks for sharing. :)


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