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Cavallucci: Christmas Cookies from Siena

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

Cavallucci are old-fashioned Christmas cookies from the Renaissance from the gorgeous city of Siena. The exact origin of the name is unknown, but it comes from the word cavallo, or "horse," in Italian. It seems these cookies were often consumed by the knights when they needed to stop to rest and change their horses. The weary knights ate cavallucci with a glass of Siena's hearty red wine.

These spicy cookies were so popular that even in Florence, Lorenzo il Magnifico loved them. He mentioned the cavallucci in his famous poem “Canti Carnascialeschi," calling them “berriquocoli,” a very old translation of “apricot." Maybe he called them this because of the dimensions of the cookie, maybe it was for the old shape (different from the typical cavallucci shape, which has a hollow inside), or maybe because they used candied apricots. We don’t know exactly, but it doesn't really matter. They are delicious regardless what you call them!

Cavallucci are one of the most famous Christmas treats in Tuscany. They have a soft texture and are made with plain flour, nuts, candied fruit, aniseeds, and spices. You can make it yourself this holiday and enjoy this yummy cookie with a little touch of Italy.

Photo: judywitts, CC BY 2.0, Wiki Commons


8 oz (220 g) plain flour

3.5 oz (100 g) sugar

1.5 tbsp (15 g) honey

2.5 oz (70 g) chopped walnuts

1.5 oz (40 g) candied orange and citron

3 oz (80 ml) water

1 tsp aniseeds

1 tsp (4 g) mixed spices (nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon)

Icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 300°F (130 C°)

Mix the flour with the chopped walnuts, diced candied fruit, ammonia, crushed aniseeds, and spices.

In a saucepan, melt the sugar and honey with some water and boil until dissolved, then add to the flour mixture.

Knead quickly and create a long dough roll with a diameter of 5 cm. Cut into cylinders about 3 cm.

Shape them with your hands and arrange your biscuits on a pan lined with baking paper.

Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool and dust with icing sugar.


Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History),The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).

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