Zuccotto is a typical dome-shaped dessert of the Renaissance culinary tradition of Florence. This is a perfect dessert for the holiday season.
Zuccotto is probably the oldest semifreddo in history: it dates back to the 15th century, thanks to chef Bernardo Buontalenti who created it for one of the Medici family banquets. Originally known as “Elmo di Caterina,” it was crafted in honor of Catherine de’ Medici. It is purported that the first zuccotto was in fact made inside a small spiked combat helmet used by the infantry of that time.
The recipe for zuccotto includes a heart of ricotta studded with chocolate nibs, concealed in a coating of sponge cake soaked with alchermes liqueur, which gives the cake a bright red color. The name probably comes from the red skullcap of the high priests of the time.
Why not try your hand making this show stopping dessert over the holidays?
For the sponge cake
4 medium eggs
120 g sugar
85 g all purpose “00” flour, sifted
35 potato starch, sifted
1 pinch of salt
The zest of 1 unwaxed, organic lemon
For the ricotta cream
600 g ricotta, drained of its whey
150 g sugar
250 g whipping cream
60 g dark chocolate chips
15 g dark cacao powder, sifted
For the garnish
50 ml Alchermes liqueur
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
First step, make the sponge cake.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, work the eggs with the sugar until light, fluffy and dense. Using a spatula slowly add the flour, potato starch and the salt to the mixture, folding it in with slow movements from the bottom up. Finally add the lemon zest. Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured cake pan. Bake for 30/35 minutes. Once baked, let the sponge cake cool completely on a rack.
Next, make the ricotta cream.
Mix the ricotta with the sugar in a large bowl. In another bowl, whip the fresh cream. Gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta and sugar mixture.
Take 1/3 of the ricotta cream and put it in a smaller bowl, add the unsweetened cacao powder. Add dark chocolate chips to the remaining ricotta cream. Refrigerate the two creams.
Now it’s time to build the zuccotto.
Cut the sponge cake into 1/2 inch slices. Line the zuccotto bowl with plastic wrap, then place the slices of sponge cake to line it completely. Using a basting brush, wet the slices of sponge cake with the Alchermes liqueur.
Spoon in the white ricotta cream, making sure to leave a hollow space in the center of the cake. Finish by pouring the dark ricotta mix in the center of the hollow.
Cover the surface with the remaining slices of sponge cake.
Cover with cling wrap and apply a little pressure to compact the filling well. Chill the zuccotto for about 6/8 hours.
Unmold the zuccotto, remove the cling wrap and place a flat plate on the bowl, turn the cake upside down and remove the rest of the cling wrap.