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Zuppa Inglese (Traditional Italian Pudding)

  • 45 minutes
  • Medium
  • Desserts and Fruit
Soft and creamy, this ancient Italian dessert will capture all of your senses.


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1,5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • ½ lb sponge cake
  • 2 cups milk, whole
  • 1 half cup alchermes liqueur
  • lemon zest to taste


In a bowl, mix together with a fork the egg yolks and sugar to make a pastry cream. Once soft and creamy, add the flour and mix together well.

Add the milk and lemon peel to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat.

Begin cooking the pastry cream in a bain marie by placing the bowl with the cream in a pot of water. Place the pot on the heat and slowly add the milk while continuing to stir.

Keep cooking the cream until it has thickened. Then remove it from the heat and divide it into two bowls. Mix the chocolate into one half.

Place a layer of sponge cake (half of what is called for in the list of ingredients) on a plate.  Drizzle with Alchermes, then cover with chocolate cream. Place the other layer of sponge cake on top and drizzle with more liquor. Cover this layer with the pastry cream.

Place in the refrigerator for a couples of hours, then serve.

Food History

Despite its name, zuppa inglese (English soup) is a traditional Italian dessert invented a long time ago. Zuppa inglese was made for the first time in the 16th century for Dukes of Este, residing in Ferrara. Legend has it that the dessert was created by the court chefs when a diplomat from Ferrara asked for a trifle, a typical British dessert made with a sweet ring cake, cream and wine, after returning from a trip to England.
The court chefs didn’t have access to the ingredients called for in the original recipe and ended up making substitutions. The Italian version is made with sponge cake, pastry cream and Alchermes to give the dessert color. Chocolate was probably added later.
This is how, over time, a typically English sweet was transformed into a traditional Italian dessert and was even included in Artusi’s book “La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene” (p.421), considered the first authoritative text on modern Italian cuisine.

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