Ingredients for 6-8 people: For the sponge cake:3 eggs120 g cane sugar90 g plain flour40 g potato starch1 vanilla pod1 pinch of salt *** For the filling:400 g fresh sheep’s milk ricotta250 g fresh whipping cream2 tbsp Viallella fondente50 g chocolate chips150 g icing sugar1 glass Zanzarato½ jar La Fragolina
First of all prepare the sponge cake (a tip: if you make it the day before you’ll save time and it won’t crumble when you slice it). In a bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the eggs with the sugar, the vanilla seeds (obtained after slitting the pod open, lengthwise, with a sharp knife) and the pinch of salt. When the mixture becomes pale, light and fluffy, add the flour and potato starch sieved together; fold them in delicately, stirring from bottom to top so as not to deflate the mixture. Then pour it into a round 22 cm cake tin, previously greased with butter and dusted with flour. Bake in a preheated oven, at 180 °C, for 30 minutes. Before removing the sponge from the oven, do the toothpick test: when you stick it into the centre of the cake, it should come out completely dry. Leave the sponge to cool down completely; iif you prepare it for the following day, close it in a cake carrier or something similar.
To prepare the filling, press the ricotta through a sieve into a bowl and mix it with the icing sugar. Whip the cream and combine it with the ricotta, stirring until you obtain a smooth, even mixture. Transfer ? into another bowl and mix it with the Viallella, and stir the chocolate chips into the remaining mixture.
Now go back to the sponge – remember, it must have cooled down completely – and cut it into slices 1 cm thick. Use them to line the inside of a hemisphere mould (or a glass bowl roughly 18 cm in diameter and 9 cm deep), trying to position the slices as close together as possible. Mix the Fragolina with the Zanzarato and brush the mixture over the slices of sponge that you have just arranged in the mould. Pour in the cream and ricotta mixture with chocolate chips, spread it around the “sides” leaving a sort of well in the centre, then pour the mixture with Viallella into it. Use the blade of a large knife to level the surface. Close the Zuccotto by covering the filling with other slices of sponge cake; brush them with some more of the strawberry flavoured Zanzarato. Press down slightly with your hands to compact the filling, cover with cling film and put your Zuccotto in the fridge for at least 6 hours; then, before serving, put it in the freezer for about an hour.
When it’s time to take the Zuccotto out of the mould, remove the cling film, turn it upside-down on a plate, lift off the mould and... voilà, your dessert is ready to serve. If there’s some sponge cake left over, you can crumble it up and sprinkle it on the plate, around the Zuccotto.
The Zuccotto has its origins in Renaissance Florence, in a period in which the Medici family appeared to want to follow the trend of consuming chilled food and drink during the hot summer weather. For this purpose numerous “ghiacciaie” (= ice houses) were created in the city, in which, in winter, ice and snow were stored at low temperatures, in order to then be able to preserve food all year round. The Zuccotto is said to have been invented by famous artist and architect Bernardo Buontalenti, who christened it “Elmo di Caterina” (= Catherine’s helmet) , in honour of Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France.
In fact the dessert is helmet shaped (who knows... maybe they used one for the original recipe) and it’s made – in the historical recipe – using sponge cake dampened with Alchermes liqueur, ricotta, citrus fruit peel and crushed cocoa beans. During the following centuries its preparation fell into oblivion, but thanks to new technology (the fridge!), the Zuccotto came back into fashion 50 to 60 years ago, giving rise to numerous versions with the most extravagant fillings.
At La Vialla we are in part tied to tradition and in part on the cutting edge, but in our recipes we always take care, as much as possible, to use “whatever is in the house”. So we could not help but invent a delicious “Viallino” Zuccotto!