Zepolli di San Giuseppe

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

These elegant egg doughnuts are traditionally eaten during the Festival of Fools, which is celebrated in Naples on 19 March. Since there are usually plenty of fools about all year round, do not allow this date to restrict when you cook and eat zepolli. They swell during cooking to emerge golden brown and light as air. Though authentically they are fried in rings, you can simply scrape spoonfuls of dough into the oil, cutting them open after they are cooked and slathering crème pâtissière and cherry jam in the middle. Finish the presentation with a dusting of icing sugar. The amounts given here can be halved.


  • 55 g/2 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 300 g/10½ oz light plain flour
  • 6 size-2 eggs
  • about 5 tbsp black cherry jam
  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • icing sugar, to dust

For the Lemon Creme Patissiere

  • 3 size-2 eggs
  • 100 g/ oz caster sugar
  • 45 g/ oz plain flour
  • 500 ml/16 fl oz full-cream milk
  • 1 lemon



First make the crème pâtissière by whisking the eggs and sugar to a ribbon consistency. Whisk in the flour and milk, transfer to a pan and add the zest grated from the lemon. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Pass through a sieve into a bowl and cool.

To make the doughnuts, weigh the flour then put it in a measuring jug. Note the volume and transfer to a container. Pour in cold water to the same volume, then put this in a pan and bring to the boil.

Add the butter, sugar and salt and turn down to a simmer. Throw in the flour in one go and whisk until mixed smoothly. Take off the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, whisking furiously. It is easiest to use an electric whisk for this job. Even then it sets tenaciously gripping the whisk like an octopus.

In a deep-frier with basket, or wok or large heavy pan, heat the oil to 190°C/375°F.


Using 2 spoons, scoop a tablespoon of batter at a time into the oil. They will look great whatever shape they go in.

Fry about 4 at a time, depending on the size of your deep-frier or pan. As they start to brown underneath, turn them over. Repeat every minute or so. They will swell and turn golden and take 8-10 minutes to cook.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Fill a piping bag with the crème pâtissière. Pipe the cream into the middle of each of the zepolli, and spoon in a little of the cherry jam.


Dust the tops with icing sugar and serve while still fresh.

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