Saturday, June 16, 2012

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese, various websites seem to agree, is like English trifle, slices of cake or cookies suspended in custard. The name means English soup in Italian. It originates in Tuscany where the English hung out in numbers 100 years ago. This zuppa inglese is a little different. It is a cake with flavored custard between the layers. It is somewhat time consuming. You have to make the cake and the custard, let the cake cool and put all together. However, the church dinner group  proved to be a reason to make it.     
 Earlier in the week, I had made plain spongecake when my son and his wife came to dinner. As  you may read in the posting, apparently  Hewlett left the last step off, and failed to let her readers know they had to beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter. So, once I mixed up the eggs, sugar, flour etc, for the zuppa inglese cake  I was ready to  pop it into the oven. Luckily, I cast a last look at the recipe, and to my horror, saw the words, "Beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter." Cake saved.
Even so, when it came time to put the cake and the custard together, it transpired that my cake was not sufficiently high to cut into three pieces, so Bob and I rushed out to Safeway on a hot and sleepy afternoon to buy another dozen eggs and make another sponge cake. If  you are serving a dozen people, as this recipe purports to serve, you might want to make two sponge cakes so you will  have enough layers to use  up all the custard.
 Also, read the recipe through carefully on Friday or Saturday if you are making this for a Sunday evening event. Here in DC, the liquor stores are closed on Sunday, so such libations as Marsala and creme de cacao cannot be purchased. Luckily, even though we don't drink very much aside from wine and the occasional beer, we do have a variety of weird liqueurs, like Kahlua, a coffee liqueur from Mexico, which does admirably well instead of creme de cacao. As for the Marsala, which is a kind of wine much favored in the early 19th century, I just left it out. The recipe says to mix it with the rum. So, I put the rum in by itself.
If  you, like me, are not entirely sure what "fold" means, read the post on spongecake which precedes this one. I  quote a passage from The Joy of Cooking on how to fold egg whites.
When you make the custard, keep the heat low so the whole mess doesn't burn.
My husband frosted the cake. He is all about presentation, so it looked beautiful. The church dinner guests were very impressed.

Zuppa Inglese

 6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Custard filing
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cornstarch
1/ 8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons creme de cacao
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup heavy cream  whipped
2 tablespoons chopped mixed candied fruits

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a nine-inch spring form pan.
2. To prepare spongecake,  beat the egg yolks until they are very thick and pale. (This takes about three or four minutes.)  then gradually beat in the sugar until mixture spins a rope when dropped from the beaters.   
3. Beat  in the lemon juice and orange rind. Sift together twice the flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold into the yolk mixture.
4.  Beat the egg whites until stiff  but not dry and fold into the  batter. Pour  into the prepared pan and bake about forty-five minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on a rack.
5. To prepare custard filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. stir in the milk. Bring to a  boil, stirring and cook one  minute.
6. Pour a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, mix and return all to the pan. Heat one to two minutes to cook the  yolks.
7.  Divide the custard into three  bowls. Add two tablespoons run to the first  bowl and chill. Add the vanilla to the second bowl and the creme de cacao to the third bowl and chill. 
8.   Combine the remaining rum with the Marsala. Split  the cooled spongecake into three layers  and sprinkle all layers with the rum mixture. Place the bottom layer in a shallow dish or deep plate. Spread with one of the cooled custards. Repeat with the other layers and the two other custards.
9. Frost with whipped  cream and garnish with candied fruit. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time. Makes 12 servings.

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