The World’s Most Expensive Christmas Treats
. By Clare Blampied, MD of Sacla
Christmas is a truly magical time of year and food plays a big part in the family traditions that make the festive season so special. From the mince pies that are left out on Christmas Eve to the traditional Christmas dinner that’s eagerly awaited all year, food really is built into the fabric of Christmas festivity.
People are so passionate about the snacks and treats that fill the festive season that they’re constantly being improved on by artisans everywhere. Sometimes, though, bakers can get carried away and end up creating Christmas treats that are so incredibly indulgent, even Santa Claus himself would gasp.
From old familiar festive favourites to the most delicious new European imports, read on for our look into the most expensive examples of Christmas treats.
In Italy, the centrepiece of the Christmas table is the panettone – a tall, sweet bread stuffed full of candied fruit. Most families order theirs from their local bakery year after year, a Christmas tradition that guarantees a tasty treat that can be enjoyed all over the festive period.
Invented in Milan, the panettone is now adored all over the world. Bakers nourish the dough for as long as 36 hours, leaving it soft and gooey inside thanks in no small part to the amount of butter that is kneaded into it.
It can be served alone in sumptuous slices or used as an inventive ingredient in trifles or puddings. Delia Smith’s Panettone and Zabaglione Trifle recipe is the perfect framework for a festive favourite.
Historically, people would save a single slice of their panettone until the new year, a tradition that carries on to this day with some Italians forcing themselves to keep hold of just one slice to enjoy toasted and dunked in a frothy cappuccino in early February.
The most expensive panettone:
In 2017, Italian pastry chef Dario Hartvig created a panettone worth £68,995, or €80,000. Requested by a Russian billionaire, the bank-breaking bread was finished with edible gold leaf and a crown of diamonds. Since then, he’s already created similar desserts, with a Swarovski crystal version costing £689. Despite the huge pricetag, Hartvig barely makes any profit on the panettone as the process is so intensive and expensive!
If you love the gold but don’t like the price, Sacla’ sells a similar but much more modestly priced gold panettone, handmade in the Sal De Riso bakery on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. This panettone is decorated with pure gold leaf and includes two types of Venezuelan chocolate to enrich its heavenly flavour. But it’s the 30-year-old starter yeast that really makes it stand out from the rest, carefully tended to by generations of the De Riso family with love – making sure you have the perfect panettone at Christmas.
Mince pies are one of the most well-known and best-loved Christmas foods, but they haven’t always taken the form of a small pastry. Instead of the short, sweet crust and the boozy fruit filling that we’re so used to, mince pies used to be made up of a thick pastry that protected a mutton filling from drying out in the baking process.
Mince pies were celebration foods, often eaten at birthdays and anniversaries as well as at Christmas. Along with suet, cloves, mace, currents, raisins, prunes, dates and orange peel, a whole leg of mutton was recommended to be used in a pie recipe from 1615!
Today, mince pies are a common Christmas snack, shared amongst friends and family in the run up to Christmas. Children all over the country leave a mince pie and a glass of brandy out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and come down the stairs on Christmas morning to discover only a crumb left.
The most expensive mince pie:
The most expensive mince pie was created by chef Ben Tish in 2012, and cost around £3500. Decorated with gold leaf and served with a rare cognac that retails at £800 a measure, the preposterous pie included goji berry, rare manuka honey, foie gras and white truffle.
Christmas pudding has been a traditional end to Christmas dinners for centuries. Like mince pies, it was originally made of beef and mutton, combined with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices and eaten as a fasting meal before the festivities.
Nowadays, the pudding is ceremoniously set on fire at the Christmas table before being enjoyed with brandy butter, custard, or a dollop of cream. Traditionally, a coin is baked into the pudding, and whoever gets the coin in their slice is said to have good luck in the New Year.
The most expensive Christmas pudding:
Savoy Hotel pastry chef, Martin Chiffers, made the world’s most expensive Christmas pudding in 2013. His recipe includes a £10,890 bottle of Duret 1810 Cognac, as well as a collectible Henry VI Salut d’Or coin, worth £7,500. Packed with Ajwa dates and Mamra almonds, some of the most sought-after fruits and nuts in the world, the Christmas pudding is estimated to set buyers back a massive £23,500.
With similar origins to the Christmas pudding, the classic Christmas cake began as a plum porridge eaten on Christmas Eve to end a period of fasting. In the 16th century, oats were swapped for butter, flour and eggs, and wealthy families added exciting exotic spices that represented the ones brought by the Wise Men in the Nativity story.
These days, Christmas cakes are a variation on the classic fruitcake. Families have fun making them together in the run up to Christmas – feeding the baked cake with more and more booze every week, before finishing it with a thick layer of marzipan or fondant icing to satisfy sweet cravings.
The most expensive Christmas cake:
The world’s most expensive Christmas cake was invented in the bakery of the Takashimaya Department Store in Tokyo, Japan. Different to British Christmas cakes, the Japanese cake (kurisumasu keki) is a soft white sponge, made with strawberries, whipped cream and light, milk sponge. This kurisumasu keki is particularly special: studded with 223 diamonds with a combined weight of 170 carats. It took 6 months to design, a month to create, and was on offer for a huge £1,332,699.