Repost: The legend of La Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch, is about a good witch that travels on her broom to deliver sweet treats to children on the Eve of the Epiphany (January 6). Epiphany is a Christian holiday honoring the the Three Kings coming to find Baby Jesus and marks the end the Christmas season. The Twelve Days of Christmas are usually counted from December 25, the day Jesus was born, until the morning of January 6, the twelfth day and the the day the Magi discovered the son of God in Bethlehem. A Panettone Butter Pecan Ice Cream Cake topped with Butterscotch Sauce and Candied Pecans is the perfect way to celebrate.
As the legend goes, La Befana, was an old woman who lived in a small village in the hills of Italy. One night while sweeping her front porch, she had a visit from the Three Kings in search of the Christ child. They asked her to join them in their search. Befana had too much cooking and cleaning to do, and refused to go. However she invited them to stay and rest and insisted on feeding them before they continued their journey. When the Wise Men left her home, she soon realized that she should have gone with them. She packed up a basket of food and gifts to offer the baby. Flying on her magic broom, she searched every night for the Christ Child. Every baby and child that benevolent Befana came upon she would leave food and a gift, never knowing which child would be the Holy One.
The Legend of Old Befana is told in a wonderful children’s book by Tomie dePaola. Click here to get it on Amazon.
In Italy, it is tradition for families to hang stockings for Befana much like hanging stockings for Santa Claus. Befana delivers candy to the children who are good and coal, often sweet candy made to look like coal, to the children who are bad. Martha Stewart offers a wonderful recipe for sweet coal if you are so inclined.
My version is a Panettone Butter Pecan Ice Cream Cake topped with Butterscotch Sauce and Candied Pecans. It is also easy to make, especially if you are like me and don’t want to do any more Christmas baking in January. The secret is to use store-bought Panettone and ice cream! Panettone cakes are on sale after Christmas, or if you got one for a gift, now you know what to do with it.
La Befana’s Panettone Ice Cream Cake for Epiphany (January 6)
- 1 1 pound panettone
- 1 quart butter pecan ice cream softened
- 1 8 ounce jar Butterscotch Topping
- 1 cup candied pecans
- Slice top off cake. Set top aside.
- Hollow out center of base leaving a 1.5 inch layer of cake on the sides and bottom.
- Spoon the ice cream into the center of the cake and pack down to remove any air pockets.
- Place the top back on.
- Wrap in plastic wrap.
- Freeze at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
- Let sit for 15 minutes. Remove paper wrapping before slicing.
- Garnish with Butterscotch Sauce and Candied Pecans