serves: 12 servings
In this recipe, I prepare the zuppa inglese almost as you would a layer cake. Although the method is fairly easy, you may want to try this more traditional and even easier way the first time you make it. Prepare all the components as described below, but assemble them as follows: Line a 13 x 7-inch ceramic or glass serving dish with one layer of sponge cake, cut side up. Brush and fill the layers as described above, finishing with a layer of whipped cream over the top layer of cake. Chill and decorate as described above. To serve, spoon the zuppa inglese from the dish, passing any remaining whipped cream and pastry cream sauce separately.
For the Pastry Cream
2½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup candied fruit, finely diced
To Assemble Zuppa
2½ cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
½ cup simple syrup
½ cup alchemers liquer or rum
¼ cup Maraschino, pr pther cherry brandy
Fruit for decoration
Make the sponge cake.
Make the pastry cream: Remove the yellow zest from the lemon in long strips using a vegetable peeler. (Avoid removing the white pith under the zest; it will add bitterness to the pastry cream.) Squeeze the juice from the lemons and set aside. Pour 2 cups of the milk into a heavy saucepan and toss in the lemon zest. Heat over medium heat just until bubbles form around the edge of the saucepan. Whisk the remaining ½ cup sugar, the cornstarch, salt and remaining ½ cup cold milk together in a small bowl until the cornstarch is dissolved. Ladle about half the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Scrape the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly and paying special attention to the bottom and corners of the pan, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 3 minutes. Drop the yolks into the same small bowl and pour the hot milk mixture slowly into the yolks, whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until the pastry cream thickens further, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl and set aside to cool with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface of the pastry cream. Chill thoroughly.
Measure and set aside ½ cup of the pastry cream. Place the candied fruit in a small bowl; strain the remaining pastry cream over the candied fruit. Cool both containers of pastry cream to room temperature with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill thoroughly.
In a medium bowl, beat 2 cups of the heavy cream and ½ cup sugar at medium speed until the cream form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted from it. Set the whipped cream aside. Combine the simple syrup, alchemers and maraschino liqueur.
With a long, serrated knife, cut the sponge cake horizontally into three even layers. Place the top layer of the cake, cut side up on a flat platter or plate at least 2 inches wider on all sides than the cake. Brush the cake layer gererously with the syrup mixture. Spread one half of the fruited pastry cream evenly over the layer, then spread about 1 cup whipped cream over the pastry cream. Top with the middle layer of the cake. Brush the top of the layer with about half the remaining syrup and repeat the layering with the remaining fruited pastry cream and 1 cup of the remaining whipped cream. Top with the bottom layer of cake, cut side down. Brush with the remaining syrup. Spread all but ½ cup of the heavy cream in an even layer of the top and sides of the cake. Chill the zuppa at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
To finish decorating and serve the zuppa inglese: Combine the reserved ½ cup pastry cream and the remaining ½ cup heavy cream in a small bowl and whisk gently to blend. Strain into a small pitcher. Decorate the top of the zuppa inglese with the remaining ½ cup whipped cream and the fruit. Cut the zuppa in to squares, place on chilled serving plates and pour a little of the pastry cream sauce around each serving.