Swiss-Italian Dove Cake for Easter

When I visited our local Swiss-Italian market a few weeks ago, I saw some beautifully wrapped packages on display in the front window. The brightly colored paper and ribbons caught my eye. After a closer look, I realized the packages were another sign of spring: the famous Swiss-Italian cake for Easter, Colomba Pasquale.


Colorful packages of Colombe de Pâques in Suisse romande

Also known as Colombe de Pâques in French, the cake has a distinctive shape, as it’s supposed to resemble a dove with outstretched wings. On top, it often has a generous coating of powdered or coarse-grained sugar, along with a few almonds. Inside, you’ll traditionally find candied orange peel, but I’ve also seen versions in our Suisse romande grocery stores with chocolate.

2014-04-03 17.33.47

Chocolate Colomba at the grocery store

Colomba Pasquale in Lugano

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Lugano in Ticino—Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton. Wandering through the streets of downtown, I came across another festive display of Colomba Pasquale in the windows of the historic Ristorante Grand Café Al Porto.


Colomba Pasquale at Lugano’s Ristorante Grand Café Al Porto

While some say the cake originated centuries ago, others place its birth in Milan at the beginning of the 20th century. Either way, today’s Colomba is popular throughout Switzerland, but especially in Ticino. Apparently, the Swiss commonly eat Colomba after lunch on Easter day, accompanied by chocolate eggs and sparking wine.

After my morning run on Sunday, I quickly spotted another bakery in downtown Lugano. I picked up a mini-Colomba and some other goodies, found a quiet spot along Lake Lugano and enjoyed a peaceful breakfast with an amazing view.


My breakfast spot along Lake Lugano


A mini-Colomba from Lugano sans candied orange peel

Colomba Pasquale

Adapted from swissmilk’s recipe for Colombe de Pâques.

2 pieces


Phase I
250 grams all-purpose flour
60 grams sugar
100 ml very warm water
7 grams of dry active yeast

Phase II
250 grams all-purpose flour (and extra flour for kneading)
scant 200 ml canola or vegetable oil
100 ml rice milk
3 egg yolks
lemon zest from 1-2 lemons (2 lemons, if they’re small)
1 1/2 tablespoons orange flower water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: 100 grams candied orange peel, finely chopped

1 egg white, lightly beaten
coarse-grain sugar and/or powdered sugar

1. In a large bowl, whisk together 250 grams of the flour and all the sugar. Set aside.

2. Add the yeast to the warm water. Gently stir together and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast mixture. Then, stir the mixture vigorously until well combined.

4. Add the other 250 grams of flour and the remaining phase II dough ingredients and continue to stir together until a soft dough forms. The dough will be sticky, but work through it and add additional flour as necessary. Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, springing back when touched. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

5. After the dough has risen, punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles. Divide the dough into four equal parts.

6. Form two doves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. First, make the “wings” of the dove by forming a C-like shape. Then, form the body of the dove and lay it on top of the wings. Let the shaped doves rise for about 20-30 minutes. Please note: It’s best if you have a paper mold, but it’s possible to do this recipe without it. For some step-by-step photos of the dove shaping, check out this recipe at


7. Brush the top of the doves with egg white. Then, sprinkle the top with some coarse-grained sugar, if you can find it, and then cover completely with a generous topping of powdered sugar.


8. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 40 minutes. The doves should be nicely browned on top and no longer soft on the bottom.



During the next two weeks, I’m taking a blogging break due to the school vacation. As a reminder though, World Allergy Week is April 7-13, 2014. Throughout next week, I’ll be sharing info related to this event via Facebook and Twitter.

As always, thanks for your continued support. Bon week-end!


8 thoughts on “Swiss-Italian Dove Cake for Easter

  1. Stephanie says:

    Oooh, I think I will have to try this! I have seen these in our local gourmet shop.

    It’s amazing how many things the Swiss can make with a rich bread dough.

    • H. Elise says:

      Hi Stephanie! I hope you like it. I couldn’t find the paper molds around here (or online), but maybe you’ve seen them for sale somewhere? This recipe works without one anyway. Hope all is well with you and the family. Cheers, Heddi

    • H. Elise says:

      Thanks, Salina! You are the sweetest. I used to think that way about yeast, but now I use it all the time. Although, fresh yeast is still pretty intimidating to me… 🙂 -Heddi xoxo

  2. Gratefulfoodie says:

    Salina, Agreed! I always walk away wishing I was her neighbor and I was heading over with my coffee in hand! I love how this family embraces Swiss living with allergies. They are impressive!

  3. sophie says:

    I made this lovely recipe a few days ago & loved it so much! It was pretty to look at & tasty to devour too, of course! I hope you are well! Xxxx 😀

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