Zuccotto

Florentine Pumpkin-Shaped Pudding

Preparation info

  • Serves

    10 to 12

    • Difficulty

      Complex

Appears in

The Mediterranean Kitchen

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 1998

  • About

The first time I tasted zuccotto was thirty years ago. I was seated at a sidewalk table in a restaurant called Al Campidoglio in Florence. Because I was a guest of a very good friend of the owner, I had been privy to tastes of many house specialties and was already very full. But the sight of this gorgeous, domed tricolored cake garnished with wild strawberries put an end to any ideas I had about not eating dessert.

Ingredients

Nut Sponge Cake

  • 8 large eggs
  • cups sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • cups sifted cake flour
  • ¼ cup finely ground toasted almonds or hazelnuts

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter two 15½ by 10½-inch baking pans, line with baker’s parchment or waxed paper, and butter the paper.

    For the cake, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt together in a mixer bowl and set it over barely simmering water. Whisk by hand until the sugar is completely dissolved, then beat with an electric mixer until it forms a ribbon on the batter when the beater is lifted that dissolves in 3 seconds. Sift the flour and nuts over the batter and gently fold until blended.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth. Bake until the cake is springy and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans. (The cakes can be made a day ahead and stored at room temperature.)

    For the fillings, melt the chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler. Let cool to room temperature. Stir the strawberries, 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries), and the cassis together in a bowl and set aside. Put the cream, 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a mixer bowl and beat until soft peaks form.

    For the vanilla cream, spoon slightly more than a third of the whipped cream into a bowl. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks form; refrigerate.

    For the chocolate cream, spoon half the remaining whipped cream into a bowl, add the cooled chocolate, and fold gently with a whisk until blended. If the mixture is too stiff to spread, loosen it with a little more cream. Set aside at room temperature; do not refrigerate.

    For the strawberry cream, fold the strawberry mixture into the remaining whipped cream and beat until stiff peaks form; refrigerate.

    To assemble the zuccotto, line a -quart bowl with plastic wrap. Turn the cakes out of the pans and peel off the parchment paper. Using the bowl as a guide, cut a circle of cake the same size as the top of the bowl; reserve the scraps. Cut the remaining cake crosswise, lengthwise, then diagonally (from corner to corner both ways) in half to make 8 triangles. Line the bowl with the cake triangles with the smooth top side of the cake facing out. Fill any holes with cake scraps. Mix the liqueur and water and brush over the cake. Spoon the vanilla cream into the cake-lined bowl and smooth the top. Spoon the strawberry cream on top of the vanilla and smooth. Top with the chocolate cream and smooth. Brush the smooth side of the cake circle with the liqueur mixture and place it, smooth side up, on the chocolate cream. Press gently to seal. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mellow.

    To serve, turn the cake out onto a large serving platter. Mix the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa and dust over the cake. Garnish with strawberries and serve chilled.