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Pan de pascua is a type of spiced fruit cake that people in the South American country of Chile customarily eat during the Christmas season. It is mainly characterized by its sweet spongy texture and the addition of raisins and candied fruits. The exact origin of this cake is unknown, although it is generally attributed to German immigrants to the country. Thus, it is possible that pan de pascua came into existence around the 19th century when significant German immigration to Chile began, decades after the country gained its independence from Spain in 1810.
The term "pan de pascua" means Easter bread. This can be attributed to the fact that when it was first introduced, people made and ate it during Easter feasts. Now the cake is traditionally eaten at Christmastime, when Chileans usually enjoy a slice or two with a local drink called cola de mono. Literally translated as "mean monkey’s tail," cola de mono can be considered the equivalent to eggnog in the United States.
The German origin of pan de pascua is likely because of the cake’s similarities to Stollen. This is a spiced loaf-shaped cake that usually contains raisins and nuts and is coated with either granular, powdered or icing sugar. Like the pan de pascua, the Stollen is primarily made and eaten during Christmas.
Pan de pascua is also similar to the Italian panettone. Prepared and eaten during the Christmas season and as a New Year's commemoration, panettone also contains raisins. The shape, however, is different, with the panettone sporting a cylinder on top of that resembles a cupola.
In addition to flour and the aforementioned ingredients for the cake, pan de pascua also requires butter, eggs, sugar or honey, rum or brandy, and baking powder or baking soda. The diced or dried fruits are usually apricots, figs, pears, plums or peaches. Sometimes walnuts or other nuts are added. Common spices used in the bread include ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
The butter and eggs are usually the first ingredients mixed together in pan de pascua. After adding some water, the other ingredients are thrown in. The entire mixture is poured in a greased pan and baked for a little over an hour. Some recipes suggest making the mixture a few days before baking for optimal results.
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