Food & drink
We can't wait for figolli! But did you know the history behind Malta’s favourite Easter sweet?
Figolli used to be decorated with dyed eggs painted in homemade food colouring

Joanna Demarco

In this day and age, you'll find figolli - the traditional Maltese Easter sweet made out of soft biscuit and marzipan - available from a number of different shops and confectioneries, in a variety of shapes and sizes: butterflies, ducks, hearts, and even guitars! But where did this beloved Easter treat come from?

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Figolli go back millennia, to pagan times, and the sweet is assumed to have originated in Sicily, (the name assumed to be derived from the Italian word figura, which means 'figure'). And this ties in with what a figolla is all about.

Particularly in the past, different shapes were tied to different meanings. For example, a fish was used as a symbol of Jesus Christ, while a basket was assumed to be a symbol of fertility.

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In the past, they were made of sweet pastry and decorated with dyed eggs. Colour was always a signature feature of the figolla. Back in the early days of the figolla, eggs were made with coloured dyes derived from onion skin, vegetables and fruit, thus creating a variety of shades such as blue, green, red, yellow and brown. This concept of decorating figolli with eggs is still practiced today, but the eggs have been replaced with chocolate eggs.

Icing and sugar are very much linked with the dawn of the 20th century, prior to which, sugar was seen as a commodity, since it was very expensive. In fact, figolli reportedly gained popularity when almond paste and icing or chocolate coating was added to the biscuit we know and love.

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Throughout Easter time, you can find figolli at cafes, shops and confectioneries around the island, but, that being said, there is nothing better than a homemade figolla - and choosing the shape and decoration of it yourself makes it that much more creative and special. 

Why not try your hand at making them this year?

1st April 2021


Joanna Demarco
Written by
Joanna Demarco

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