The pupazza is a traditional sweet from Frascati, a city located on the outskirts of Rome. It is a cookie in the shape of a young woman with three breasts. The female image symbolizes fertility and abundance and represents a tradition that stretches back thousands of years. In the times of Imperial Rome it was customary, at the beginning of the year during the feast of Sigillaria (from the Latin word sigillum, which means figurine or statue), to give children a biscuit made from marzipan and honey in the shape of either a doll with three breasts or a small animal, while the adults would exchange figurines (sigilla) made of terracotta for good luck.
Although popular local stories of the creation of the Frascati pupazza vary, all of them are linked to this ancient symbolism. According to the most famous version, the sweet represents the figure of a wet nurse, who is considered capable of calming restless little children with a small dose of good wine, sucked from a cloth pacifier which has been soaked in Frascati wine, almost like a fake breast. Alternatively, Robert Eroli, an expert in local history, recounts the story of the nephew of a historic Frascati pastry maker, according to which the pupazza developed after the Second World War to create a link with the ancient wine tradition of the area.
The recipe is simple, though it requires skill in its preparation. The dough is made from equal parts of type “0” flour (some people even use “00”) and honey (generally acacia or multiflower), to which some people add chestnut honey, spices, or citrus aromas. The facial features can be designed with simple incisions, grains of barley, coffee beans, pieces of candied fruits, or even sugar; for the ornamental jewels, small silver ball-shaped sprinkles are used.
Each of the seven artisans who still produce this cookie has his own mold to shape the pupazza, and they apply the same basic recipe, with small personal variations.