I've wanted to make this dessert for so long. I remember enjoying this dessert the last time we visited Cortona in 2019. It was a lovely memory. Zuccotto is a classic Florentine dessert that is meant to look like the dome of the Duomo. The word "Zucca" in Italian means "pumpkin" and would say these look a little like a small pumpkin. The other connection is that they resemble the little red caps worn by cardinals called "zucchetto". Italian foods are often named after the items that they look like. I love the story behind these.
You're more likely to find these in bakeries in Florence and Tuscany. Sometimes you can discover them on the dessert menu of a restaurant. Whenever you see it offered, try it! Each one may be made a bit different. Sometimes there is a layer of both of cream and chocolate inside. The classic way this is made is usually with a special Tuscan Liquor called Alchermes - which is impossible to find here in the US. It's a beautiful red color and is known for it's herbal and medicinal properties. We used a combination of brandy and espresso on two of them, and a blood orange vermouth on the other two. They were both delicious!
This dessert takes some time to make and assemble, but it's totally worth the effort.
Have fun making these (and eating them). They are really special!
This recipe involves making two different components and then assembling the zuccotto.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
1 cup (150 g) all-purpose flour
1 lemon (zested)
Pinch of salt
Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix together using a stand mixer on high for 10 minutes until the mixture is light yellow and very fluffy. Add the flour, pinch of salt, and lemon zest and incorporate well for another minute with the mixer.
Spray a 9x9 inch cake pan with spray oil and cover with parchment paper. Make sure the paper comes over the sides of the pan on two sides so that you can remove the cake easily later after it is baked. Pour the batter into the parchment covered cake pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Let the cake cool. Remove from the pan. Cover the cake on all sides plastic wrap and let rest overnight if possible.
2 cups (about 500 ml) heavy whipping cream
6 Tablespoons (50 g) powdered sugar
4 ounces (100 g) dark chocolate (chopped into small chunks)
4 ounces (100 g) candied orange peel – cut into small pieces (If you don’t have candied orange peel, use the zest of one orange)
If you’d like to make your own candied orange peel, it’s the best.
Here is my favorite recipe for candied orange peel:
Vin Santo, Brandy, or other liquor (Grand Marnier is also great)
Powdered sugar or cocoa to dust
4 small to medium sized bowls (about 3-4 ounces each)
Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar together using a stand mixer for around 2 minutes until you have soft medium peaks. When you take the beaters out of the bowl, you should see a nice, sturdy peak on them. Mix in the dark chocolate and candied orange peel. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the Zuccotto.
To create the Zuccotto
· Spray the bowls with spray oil and line them with plastic wrap. You should have enough wrap to cover the sides and top of the zuccotto.
· Unwrap the sponge cake and cut the cake into thin strips (about ¼ inch thick) using a serrated knife.
· Lay the strips next to each other to completely line the inside of the bowl.
· Brush the cake with the Vin Santo, Brandy or other liquor of your choice.
· Next, spoon the cream onto the cake in the bowl until it reaches almost to the top of the bowl.
· Cover the top with additional strips of cake brushed with liquor.
· Press down on the cake and place the plastic wrap up and over the entire top of the Zuccotto.
· Place them in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. These can also be frozen. Remove from the freezer and let sit for 5-6 minutes before plating.
When ready to serve, take the cakes out the bowls carefully by lifting them out of the bowls with the plastic wrap. Remove the plastic wrap as you place them on the plate.
Place the Zuccotto dome side up on a plate. Finish with an additional dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa. If you like, add some chopped nuts or small pieces of candied orange peel to the plate.