Bustrengo is eaten all year round in San Marino, but it’s particularly popular at Christmas. Light, moist and packed with citrus and fruit, Bustrengo is a delightful Mediterranean alternative to Christmas cake

Preparation time: 15 minutesCooking time: 1 hour
Difficulty: EasyServes: 10-20


  • 150g/5oz/1 cup of cornmeal
  • 100g/3.5oz/1 cup of plain flour 
  • 100g/3.5oz/7/8 cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of honey
  • 100ml/1dl/1/6 pt/1/4 cup olive oil‌
  • 3 eggs
  • 500ml/5dl/just under 1 pt/2 cups of milk
  • 400g/14oz/2 2/3 cups of dried figs, thickly chopped and with the stems removed
  • 500g/17.5oz/4 cups of apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 orange
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon


  • A little extra olive oil, for greasing

Make it vegan: if not using honey, the best substitute is a vegan honey like Honea, but you can also replace it with an equal amount of golden (light corn) syrup or maple syrup instead. Replace the milk with a vegan milk like almond, soya or oat milk.
The best replacement for the three eggs in this recipe is flax egg- mix three tablespoons of ground flaxseeds with nine tablespoons of water, and leave the mixture to sit for five minutes, before adding it to the cake mixture.

Special Equipment:

  • A large steel pizza pan, or large cake tin
  • Large mixing bowl
  • A pastry brush


  1. Preheat the oven to 170’C/325’F/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Brush the tin or pan with a very small amount of olive oil..
  3. Mix the cornmeal, plain flour, salt and breadcrumbs together in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the honey, milk, olive oil and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix everything together thoroughly. 
  5. Next, add the apple, figs, zest and juice to the cake mixture, and everything together.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin or pan, and pop it into the oven.
  7. Cook the Bustrengo for about an hour, turning partway through cooking if need be. When it’s done it should be lightly browned and a fork inserted into the cake should come out clean.


Home: San Marino, North East Italy

Relatives: Stollen, Panettone 

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San Marino is a very small landlocked country, located between the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche in the Apennine mountains. It’s one of the world’s three enclaved sovereign states: like Vatican City, San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy. (The other enclaved state, Lesotho, is surrounded by South Africa.)

 San Marino is named after Saint Marinus, a Croatian stonemason who travelled to the city of Rimini and became a Christian preacher there. Marinus eventually fled Rimini to escape the Diocletian Persecution, and founded a church at Monte Titano. There, he led a peaceful, isolated life with a community of mountain peoples and fellow Christian refugees, and he bequeathed the land to the others before he died, around 301 AD. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving republic in the world as a result.

(Max_Ryazanov, Fortress of Guaita, 2013 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fortress_of_Guaita_2013-09-19.jpg> [accessed 29/01/2020] (commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

  Today, San Marino is known for its hilly terrain, scenic views, towers, sculptures, and food. Sammarinese cuisine shares many similarities with northern Italian cuisine: local cheeses, meats and wines are prized. Common foods include soup, pasta, and roast rabbit: for dessert, cake, including Bustrengo, Torta Tre Monti (Cake of the Three Mountains) and Torta Titano are  popular options. Other desserts include Verretta (wafers), Cacciatello (custard) and zuppa di ciliegie (cherries in sweetened red wine, served on white bread).

  As a fruity, citrussy breadlike cake popular at Christmas, Bustrengo is similar to the Italian Panettone and the German Stollen. But unlike stollen and panettone, Bustrengo isn’t just made at Christmas: it’s eaten all year round. And while the other dishes are kneaded and leavened, premade breadcrumbs and cornmeal (polenta) are mixed into other cake ingredients to make Bustrengo.

 Bustrengo was traditionally cooked over a fire, in a copper pot covered with a lid lined with hot coals, so the cake was cooked thoroughly on both sides. It would be cooked at night, at the end of a meal, while guests rested around the fire. When the cake was ready, it would be removed, casually sliced into pieces, and served with sweet white wine.

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