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Zuccota Casanova

SERVES 10

Zucotto, which means "skullcap", is the name given to a richly layered pastry-cream, fruit, and chocolate-filled cake that is said to resemble the dome of Florence's cathedral. This recipe is a variation on the zuccotto theme. Purchase good-quality firm ladyfingers, not the soft spongy type found in grocery stores.

Ingredients

PASTRY CREAM

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons Orange Liqueur or Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon sugar

About 30 ladyfingers (3/4 pound)

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks

3/4 cup sliced strawberries

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped medium-fine Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Add a final layer of ladyfingers, covering the filling completely, and spritz with the orange liqueur mixture. Bring the overhanging edges of the plastic wrap up over the top of the cake, pressing down on the cake gently. Refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, unwrap the top of the cake. Place a serving dish over the top and invert the mold. Remove the plastic wrap carefully from the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar. Cut into wedges to serve.

Directions

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and cool slightly.

In the top of a double boiler, off the heat, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in the flour. Whisk in the warm milk. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the cream thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Add the sugar and stir to incorporate. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with a piece of buttered wax paper, pressing it against the surface of the cream. Refrigerate.

Line an 8 3/4-4 1/4-inch glass bowl with plastic wrap, letting the edges overhang the bowl by several inches. Fill a clean spritzer with the orange liqueur or Grand Marnier, water, and sugar, and use it to spritz the ladyfingers as you assemble the cake. (Alternatively, combine the Grand Marnier, water, and sugar in a bowl and dip the ladyfingers briefly in the mixture as you work. You may need slightly more liqueur if you choose this method.)

Line the sides of the bowl with spritzed ladyfingers, standing them on end and making sure the tops of the ladyfingers are even with the rim of the bowl (you will need about 14). Break up 2 or 3 more ladyfingers and fill in the bottom of the bowl.

Spread a layer of pastry cream over the ladyfingers in the bottom of the bowl. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the whipped cream over the pastry cream. Arrange a layer of ladyfingers over the heavy cream and spritz with the orange liqueur mixture. Spread about 2/3 cup of the pastry cream over the ladyfingers. Arrange the strawberries over the pastry cream, pressing them gently into the cream. Sprinkle half of the chocolate over the strawberries.

Cover the chocolate with another layer of ladyfingers and spritz with the orange liqueur mixture. Spread the remaining pastry cream over the ladyfingers and sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the pastry cream. Spread the remaining heavy cream over the chocolate.

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