Sospiri di Monaca

Nun’s Sighs


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

These sweet little buns are a traditional speciality of the town of Bagnara Calabra in the province of Reggio Calabria. They are made out of sponge cake, sandwiched together with custard and glazed with white icing, finished off with a halved red glacé cherry placed rather provocatively in the middle, which is why they are sometimes called tette di monaca, or nun’s breasts!!


For the Sponge

  • 5 eggs
  • 75 g/3 oz/6 tbsp caster/superfine sugar
  • 150 g/5 oz/1 ¼ cups plain/all-purpose flour

For the Custard

  • 1 litre/1 ¾ pints/4 cups full-fat/whole milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 cup sugar
  • 50 g/2 oz/½ cup plain/all-purpose flour
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

For the Icing

  • 2 egg whites
  • 300 g/11 oz/2 ⅔ cups icing/confectioners’ sugar
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • red glacé/candied cherries, halved, to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease 8 muffin cases and place in a muffin tin or pan.
  2. First make the sponge for the buns. Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a balloon or electric whisk until thick and pale, gradually adding the sugar. Sift in the flour very slowly, folding it into the mixture a little at a time.

  3. Pour the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool in the muffin cases while you make the custard.
  4. Pour the milk into a pan and heat until it is just below boiling point.
  5. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a second pan until thickened, then gradually sift in the flour. Gradually add the hot milk, whisking constantly.
  6. Add the grated lemon zest and keep stirring until the custard thickens and comes to a slow boil. Allow to boil gently for about 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and pour into a bowl to cool.
  7. For the icing, whisk the egg whites until foaming and thick but not stiff. Gradually sift in the icing sugar and fold through the egg white. Stir in the lemon juice and stir until the icing forms a continuous ribbon when you lift up the spoon, then set aside.

  8. Remove the buns from their muffin cases and split them in half, then sandwich them back together with the cooled custard.

  9. Cover the buns smoothly with the icing and place a halved cherry in the middle of each one before serving.