No one really knows where the name Zuppa inglese comes from, there are several versions of its origins, one is that it comes from the Court of the Este family in Ferrara in the sixteenth century and as that suits me best because I use a recipe from Romagna, let’s go for that today! It does resemble the English Trifle so it’s obvious where the inglese (which means English) comes from. I follow a recipe that I have found in a cookbook written by the great Federico Fellini’s sister Maddalena Fellini that is called Romagna in cucina but obviously I have changed some things like the sponge cake that I use which is from a Swedish classic called Sju Sorters Kakor and some other small details but I always keep her book open when I decide to make Zuppa inglese. I actually don’t like making it because it really bores me to bits to make custard (and béchamel sauce for that matter), I find it sooo boooring to stir and stir and nothing ever happens and then all of a sudden it all happens in a moment and then you have to be very careful so that the custard wont get lumpy and eggy. The problem is that at that point I am so bored that I have more or less fallen mentally asleep so I’m getting very wary of making custard… But now and then I obey the wishes of two family members and make it. Like now but I have to say that I must make it more often because I was a bit out of practice!


Sponge cake:
4 eggs
4 dl sugar
3 dl flour
2 dl corn starch
4 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
2 dl hot water

– Whisk egg, salt and sugar fluffy and white in a bowl.
– Sift the flour, the corn starch and the baking powder into the bowl and stir well.
– Add the hot water and stir carefully. Pour it all (the right term for it escapes me right now. Batter? Dough? Mah!) into a fairly large cake tin, I use a square one because it is easier to cut into slices later but it’s ok with a round one as well.
– Bake it in a pre-heated oven (175° centigrades) for 25-30 minutes.
– Let it cool on a rack.

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
6 tbsp
3 tbsp flour
1 liter milk
1 lemon

– Bring 5 dl of milk to the boil together with the zest of the lemon. Peel it of with a potato peeler so that only the yellow part of the peel comes off.
– While it is warming up you whisk the eggs and the sugar whitish and fluffy in a large bowl. Add the flour and mix it carefully.
– When the milk is boiling, add the remaining 5 dl of milk and take out the lemon peel. Pour the milk into the bowl with the eggs and sugar and stir well.
– Pour it back into the pan where the milk boiled and warm it up, stirring in continuation. It’s now the boring part comes, slowly slowly you heat it up again, stirring all the time.
– When it has thickened, you immediately put it aside to cool down.

The actual making of the zuppa inglese:

  • ½ dl Alchermes, a red liqueur that you use in desserts and cakes, I use a non-alcoholic version just to get the red colour

½ -1 dl rum
1 dl water

– Cut the sponge cake into slices about 1- 1 ½ cm thick.
– Mix the Alchermes, the rum and the water in a bowl.
– Take a dish with fairly high sides and put a layer of vanilla custard on the bottom.
– Dip a slice of sponge cake into the Alchermes and the rum quickly (it has to absorb the liquid but not too much because it will fall into pieces) and then put it on top of the custard. Go on doing that until you have covered it with a layer of sponge cake.
– Spread out another layer of custard and repeat the sponge routine again. Do this two or three times, remember to finish with a layer of custard.
– You can serve it straight away if you want but I find that it gets better if I leave it to rest an hour in the fridge before serving it!

zuppa inglese