Marsala Zabaglione Cake

For as long as I’ve been living in San Francisco, sacripantina has been a popular dessert. Sacripante in Italian means blusterer or bully and also is the name of a character in Orlando Furioso, a poem-play that is performed in Sicily with life-size puppets. Nick Malgieri believes that the origin of this cake is Liguria, but his recipe has chocolate buttercream filling. I suspect that the cake I know as sacripantina is Sicilian in inspiration because of the zabaglione filling. This is our interpretation of this San Francisco classic.



  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
  • 1 cup cake flour sifted
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Marsala Zabaglione Filling

  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala Berries, for garnish (optional)



For the génoise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch by 3-inch-high round cake pan and line with parchment paper.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set it over hot water and whisk by hand until warm. Then remove from the heat and beat on high speed until the mixture holds a 3-second dissolving ribbon when the beater is lifted. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Then, sift half the flour over the mixture and fold in. Fold in the melted butter, and then sift and fold in the remaining flour. Pour into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake springs back when touched, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a rack.

For the filling, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until blended, whisk in the sugar and Marsala and strain into a shallow heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over boiling water and whisk constantly until the mixture is light and airy and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon on the mixture when the whisk is lifted. 10 to 15 minutes. Chill in a bowl of ice water.

Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the cooled Marsala custard.

To assemble the cake, slice the génoise horizontally into 3 rounds. Place the bottom génoise round on a serving plate and spread with about half the filling. Top with a second génoise round and spread with the remaining filling. Cover with the third génoise round. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, prepare the icing: Beat the cream with the sugar and Marsala until stiff peaks form. Spread over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with strawberries, or raspberries if you like.