How a Christmas cake led to the dethroning of one of the world's top influencers.

It all started with a Christmas cake. And now Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni is in hot water.

It's all about the sale of a designer pandoro (an Italian holiday cake similar to panettone), branded with Ferragni's name – the funds from which were promised to help an Italian hospital for sick children. 

Small issue... the funds didn't ever make it to the hospital. 

Ferragni first became a public figure following the success of her fashion blog in 2009. Soon after, she began selling clothes and accessories under her own brand, as well as doing influencer work with other notable brands. She amassed more than 29 million followers and an estimated €40m (around $66.3m AUD) fortune alongside her husband, Italian rapper Fedez. The pair also share two children.  

With a perfectly curated public profile, Ferragni was considered not only Italy's top influencer but also one of the world's, given her credibility and following.

But with a high rise, came the potential for an even greater fall.

Watch: how one influencer faked going to Coachella. Post continues below. 

Video via YouTube. 

The cake scandal dates back to late 2022, when the 'Pandoro Pink Christmas' was labelled as being designed by Ferragni and was sold by Italian food company Balocco. The brand and Ferragni came together to promote the holiday-special pandoro, and it was a hit with customers too each one costing around $15 AUD (€9).


Buyers of the Ferragni-branded pandoro believed the money they paid would contribute to the purchase of medical equipment for a children's hospital in Turin, Italy.

Balocco had already made a donation of €50,000 ($83k AUD) to the hospital months before the cake was put on sale. But the extensive funds from the sale of the cakes – which haven't been disclosed – were not given to the hospital as promised.

Ferragni's social posts alone are believed to have raised around $1.9m (AUD) in cake sales.

But the watchdog was... well... watching. And the high sales price versus the donation provided just didn't match up.

And it seems this might not be the first time something like this has occurred. According to Italian media, officials are now are also looking at other charity initiatives endorsed by Ferragni, including Easter eggs produced by food company Dolci Preziosi that allegedly earned her far more than the amount donated to the good cause in question. 

Chiara Ferragni with her pink pandoro cake. Image: Instagram.


Balocco paid Ferragni's company around $1.6m (AUD) for her involvement in the promotion.

The watchdog has since fined Balocco nearly $700,000 (AUD) and Ferragni was fined almost $1.8m. 

Ferragni has since promised to donate $1.6m to the children's hospital.

In a recent speech, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni criticised Ferragni (though didn't name her personally), citing influencers who promote "expensive panettone making believe that they are for charity, when the price only pays for millionaire's fees". 

In a video message posted to Instagram in December, Ferragni apologised for what had occurred.

Translated to English, she said: "[I] apologise and give concrete action to my gesture: I will return one million euros [$1.6m AUD] to Queen Margaret to support children's care. But it's not enough: I do it publicly because I realised I made a communication error."


She went on to say that she will challenge the ruling from officials, as she believes it's "disproportionate and unfair".

"My mistake was in good faith... Unfortunately you can make mistakes, I am sorry I did it and I realise I could have guarded better," she said.

"In the coming days I will speak with Queen Margaret to understand how the hospital will use the money donated by me and I will periodically tell you updates. My mistake remains but I want to make sure that something constructive and positive can be generated from this mistake."


The troubles didn't stop after Ferragni's video message though.

Prosecutors in Milan shared with the media that they are also investigating Ferragni and company Balocco for aggravated fraud.

In a statement following the news, Ferragni said: "I am calm because I have always acted in good faith and I am certain that this will emerge from the ongoing investigation. I have full confidence in the work of the judiciary and with my lawyers."

Then the heat intensified.

In an aim to help improve transparency in social media posts when payments are involved, Italy's communications authority approved new rules for all celebrities and content creators to follow. 

The new rules apply to Italian influencers with more than one million followers. Any advertising content posted will need to be clearly labelled as such in order to be recognisable, otherwise the poster will risk fines of up to $996,000. 

Similar laws were introduced in France last year.

Italy's communications authority confirmed their new guidelines were influenced by the current Ferragni drama.

To think it all began with a Christmas cake... 

Feature Image: Instagram @chiaraferragni.

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