Is it a gubana, presnitz or putizza? These three typical cakes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia have a lot of similarities: essentially their fillings (nuts, dried fruit and a good splash of alcohol) and their shape (more or less a spiral). The differences relate to their town of origin and the type of pastry used, and getting them mixed up is a dead giveaway that you’re not a local. 






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Presnitz is said to have been a variation on a putizza and was first made in honour of the visit of Sissi (beloved Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary) to Trieste in 1856. Buttery puff pastry surrounds a filling of boozy sultanas, ground nuts, chocolate, honey and orange zest. It is the only cake of the three that doesn’t have yeast so it looks smaller than the others.  The filling tastes very good on its own and I have been known to eat a good many spoonfuls while preparing it (just to check the flavours are balanced, obviously). My spiral is a bit more tightly wound up than you usually find in Trieste, which is just the way I like it. 

If you are making your own pastry you will need to start this recipe at least four hours ahead so it has sufficient time to rest. If you’re not making the pastry yourself (and this is fine – it is quite labour intensive), use a 375 g (13 oz)  packet of good-quality store-bought puff pastry to make the cakes.


  • 160 g (53/4 oz/1 cup) sultanas (golden raisins), soaked in 2 1/2 tablespoons white rum for at least 2 hours
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, ground 
  • 160 g (53/4 oz) hazelnuts, toasted and ground 
  • 100 g (31/2 oz) walnuts, ground 
  • 3 tbsp almonds, toasted and ground 
  • 50 g (13/4 oz) sweet plain biscuits, crushed 
  • 40 g (11/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 70 g (21/2 oz) dark chocolate (45% cocoa solids), grated
  • 2 tbsp honey 
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange 
  • ⅓ tsp salt 
  • 2 eggs, separated 
  • splash of milk

Puff pastry

  • 175 g (6 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour 
  • ⅓ tsp salt 
  • 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/ ⅓ cup) chilled water 
  • 125 g (41/2 oz) chilled unsalted butter

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time 2.5 hours.

This recipe makes 2 x 20 cm presnitz cakes.

  1. To make the pastry, place 125 g (4½ oz) of flour in a mound on a work surface; add the salt and then make a well in the centre. Pour about 1 tablespoon of water into the well, working it into the flour using the tines of a fork. When you have worked it in, add a bit more water and work that in. Keep adding small amounts of water and working it in until the dough starts to come together. How much water you will need depends on the humidity in the air, so the amount will vary according to when and where you make the dough.  It should have the consistency of loose pasta dough. Form it into a ball, wrap it in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Place about 25 g (1 oz) of flour on your work surface (a cool surface such as stone or marble is best), then put the whole piece of butter on the flour. Working quickly so it doesn’t start to soften and melt, dust the butter in the flour and then roll it out with your rolling pin slightly, trying to incorporate some of the flour. Flip it over and repeat – you are trying to incorporate as much of the flour as possible. Roll the butter into a rectangle approximately 18 cm x 5 cm (7¼ in x 2 in). If the butter starts to melt or soften too much, wrap it in plastic film and put it in the fridge for 10 minutes before continuing. By now the dough should have rested for long enough.
  3. Roll out the dough on your floured work surface to a 20 cm x 8 cm  (8 in x 3¼ in) rectangle. Place the block of butter on top, dust with a bit more flour and roll lengthways. Now fold it over like a letter by folding the top third into the middle and the bottom third over that. Rotate the pastry a quarter turn and repeat, rolling it into a longish rectangle, then folding it like a letter. Repeat once more, then wrap the pastry in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
  4. Repeat the process of rolling, folding and turning the dough, then resting it in the fridge four more times, remembering to dust with extra flour if the pastry becomes sticky at any point.
  5. To make the filling, when you have completed the first rolling, folding and resting of the dough (or about 2 hours ahead if you are using store-bought pastry). Place the drained sultanas, ground nuts, crushed biscuits, sugar, chocolate, honey, orange zest, salt and egg whites in a large bowl and mix well. You should have a thick but spreadable delicious-smelling filling. Cover the bowl and rest in the fridge for 2 hours. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  7. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface until it measures about 50 cm x 25 cm (20 in x 10 in). Cut it in half lengthways so you have two long strips of pastry. Divide the filling in half. Place one long compact log of filling along the length of one pastry strip, leaving a gap of about 4 cm (1½ in) at each end. Carefully roll up the pastry to completely enclose the filling and fold down the two ends. Coil the log into a loose spiral and carefully lift it onto the prepared tray. Repeat with the remaining pastry strip and filling 
  8. Whisk together the egg yolks and milk, then brush the egg wash generously over the two presnitz. Bake for 35–40 minutes until golden and the pastry is cooked through. 
  9. Allow to cool completely, then cut into slices with a serrated knife to serve.



• The presnitz will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00