Christmas Italian Recipe Italian Dessert

How to make Torciglione: special christmas almond “snake trees”

Torciglione is a sweet treat from Umbria, the region in central Italy.

Among the typical cakes of the Umbrian Christmas there is one with a very particular shape: the “torciglione”. 

Its origins are still uncertain: someone claims it has a shape of a lake’s eel, others that of a snake.

Independently from its history, it’s a very famous cake all over the region, and there are different versions that can differ according to the amount, the presence or absence of some ingredients, but especially for the final decorations that leave much room to creativity. 


  • 1 lb almonds
  • 1 lb bitter almonds
  • 3 oz starch
  • 1 lb sugar cubes
  • 3 ½ oz vanilla sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 ¾ oz candied cherries
  • 3 egg whites



  1. Immerse the almonds in boiling water, turn up the heat, and then remove them.
  2. Peel them, and put briefly in a warm oven to let them dry.
  3. Pound the almonds in a wooden mortar together with the sugar, and then transfer the mixture to a pastry board, add the starch, the grated lemon rind, the vanilla sugar and mix everything with two lightly beaten egg whites.
  4. Knead briefly, roll up to form a roll 10 inches long, tapering it from one end to the other.
  5. The dough should be shaped like a snake with a slender head and sharp tail, curved in such a way that it fits on the serving plate.
  6. Line a baking tray with the wafers, and put on top the roll of dough twisted in on itself.
  7. Since the dough tends to expand during cooking, leave sufficient room between the head and the tail.
  8. Brush the snake with the remaining whipped egg white. Insert along the length of the snake the pine nuts, as if they were scales, and intersperse with the cherries: for the eyes insert two coffee beans.
  9. Then with a knife cut open the mouth and insert a cherry into it.
  10. Put the tray into a moderately hot oven (325°F) for about three quarters of an hour.



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