September 5, 2019 Updated: September 5, 2019

This sponge cake recipe yields double the amount of cake you’ll need for your zuccotto. I prefer to bake a bigger sponge cake to be sure I have enough to line my zuccotto, and save what is left for breakfast. It’s delicious slightly toasted and topped with ricotta and your favorite jam.

Bake the sponge cake the day before and wrap it in aluminum foil once cool; it will be easier to slice.  

Makes one 9-inch zuccotto, plus extra sponge cake

For the sponge cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon potato starch
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups well-drained sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Zest of 1/2 organic lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the syrup:

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup alchermes (or amaretto, brandy, or another old-fashioned Italian liqueur) 

Begin with the sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan with butter and dust with flour, then set aside.

In a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes until they are pale yellow, almost white, and stiff. When you lift up the whisk, a ribbon of batter should fall and remain on the surface of the batter in the bowl for a few seconds.

In another bowl, sift the flour with the potato starch and a pinch of salt. Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the beaten eggs, using a spatula to make slow movements from the bottom of the bowl to the top.

Scrape batter into the previously greased and floured pan and bake for about 25 minutes, until the sponge cake is golden and dry. Let it cool completely.

Next, prepare the filling: In a large bowl, whip together the ricotta with the sugar and the fresh cream, then add the grated zest of half a lemon.

Divide the ricotta mixture equally between two bowls. Add the chocolate chips to one of the bowls, and sift the cocoa powder into the other, stirring until well combined. 

Now, prepare the syrup: Dissolve the sugar into the hot water, then pour in the alchermes.

Finally, it is time to prepare the zuccotto.

Line a deep 9-inch round bowl with food-grade film. Cut the cooled sponge cake into 1/2-inch thick slices or wedges and use them to completely line the inside of the bowl. Brush the sponge cake with the alchermes syrup. 

Fill the sponge cake dome first with the chocolate chip ricotta mixture, then with the cocoa ricotta mixture. Line the top of the zuccotto with more slices of sponge cake and brush them again with the alchermes syrup. Keep what is left of the syrup to use right before serving. Seal the zuccotto with the plastic wrap and place it in the fridge until the next day.

The next day, gently invert the zuccotto onto a serving dish and remove the plastic wrap. Brush with the remaining alchermes syrup and serve immediately. 

Recipe by Giulia Scarpaleggia