This is one of those classics which looks incredibly difficult to make but, though time-consuming is actually very easy and absolutely scrumptious. It is a mould of sponge cake filled with chocolate and cream. During my childhood in Italy we always had this at home for birthdays, holy days and anniversaries. The fiddly decorating bit with the paper cut-out can be ignored, although it is traditional.
Chop the almonds coarsely. Toast the hazelnuts until dark brown under a grill, then rub off the skins. Chop the hazelnuts also. Cut the top crust and the sides off the cake and reserve for use in another dish; slice the cake itself in half horizontally. Line with aluminium foil a bowl large enough to take both the cake and the cream when whipped. Press the cake into the bowl to line the bottom and sides, breaking it into pieces as necessary and using the brandy and liqueur to soak it and make it stick. Set aside.
In another bowl whip the cream until stiff, fold in the almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate drops or chips and candied peel or glacé fruit. Divide the cream in half and stir the melted chocolate into one half. Sweeten each portion of cream with
Meanwhile, draw a circle slightly larger than the bowl on a sheet of stiff paper. Draw a line across the diameter to create 2 half-circles. Draw another line to create quarters and another to create eighths. Number the 8 wedges 1 to 8 and cut out wedge numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8.
Shortly before serving turn the dessert out on to a platter. Remove the foil and, using a sieve, dust the Zuccotto with the remaining icing sugar. Lay the cut-out circle of paper on the top. Dust the 4 wedges that are not covered by paper with the cocoa powder. Remove the paper circle carefully. You now have the traditional design on the pudding - it is meant to look like a small pumpkin, which is what Zuccotto actually means. Chill until required.
© 1990 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.