Zuppa inglese is similar to English trifle. The name derives from the word inzuppare, which means "to moisten" or "to soak". In this recipe, the cake, which is similar to a sponge cake, is split and sprinkled with Alchermes, a spicy red liqueur made form cochineal and used in many Italian desserts. If Alchermes is difficult to find, substitute brandy or raspberry liqueur. The cake is best make a day ahead; add the whipped cream toping just before serving.
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup diced mixed dried fruits (such as apricots, pears, and apples)
1 tablespoon Alchermes, rum, or raspberry brandy
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Dried apricots, pears, and/or apples for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Sift the flour and salt onto wax paper.
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks until lemon-colored. Gradually beat in the sugar.
In another bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually fold the whites into the egg yolk mixture until well blended. Spoon the flour over the batter a little at a time, and fold in until no streaks of flour remain.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake is delicately browned and a cake skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the pan and invert it onto a rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan, scald the milk (bring to just under a boil). Let cool to warm.
In the top of a double boiler, off the heat, whisk the yolks with the sugar until smooth. Gradually whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Place the double boiler over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the filling thickens and coats the whisk. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and stir in the butter, zest, vanilla, and diced fruits. Set the pan in a pan of ice cubes and water to cool.
When cool, transfer the filling to a bowl, cover with a piece of buttered wax paper, pressing it against the surface of the filling, and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to split the cake into 2 layers. Place one layer on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the Alchermes, rum, or raspberry brandy. Spread the filling evenly over the layer. Top with the second layer. Refrigerate until chilled. (The cake can be loosely covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.)
In a bowl, beat the cream with the confectioners' sugar until still peaks form. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the cream. Pipe a decorative border around the top and bottom edges of the cake. If you wish, arrange dried fruits in the cream. Cut the cake into wedges with a serrated knife.
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