Zuccotto – Ricotta Mascarpone and Chocolate Dome


This is one of the first semifreddo type desserts to appear in Italy, meaning that the cream contained in its layers is chilled rather than frozen like gelato. It is part of the family of similar semifreddo desserts based around zuppa inglese, the Italian trifle that, in spite of its name, did not come from England.

Zuccotto gets its name from zucca, meaning pumpkin. In colloquial Italian zucca also refers to a person’s head and similarly the dome shape of zuccotto after it is unmoulded.

There is speculation as to the origin of zuccotto- that it was fashioned after Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo in Florence- but similar constructions like Sicilian cassata filled with cream, ricotta, nuts and candied peel, appear elsewhere in Italy. Cassata is also made in a dome-shaped mould and decorated more extravagantly befitting the baroque tradition of the island.

In Lampedusa’s great novel “The Leopard” there is yet another similar version referred to in the Ponteleone Ball scene as “trionfi della gola” (the triumph of gluttony) made in a cone shape with sponge with layers of cream and zuccata (in this case candied pumpkin) and decorated with bright green Bronte pistachios.

Even Artusi has a dome-shaped dessert made from layers of sponge fingers, cream and jam but he calls it zuppa inglese.

Whatever the origin of zuccotto, it is a spectacular dessert that is well worth the time invested in its creation.


1 sheet of cocoa sponge (see recipe below)

1 sheet of citrus sponge (see recipe below)


Ricotta filling

Fresh ricotta 300g

Cream 300g

Icing sugar 100g

Almond whole chopped 40g

Mixed peel 50g

Cedro (citron) 50g cut in small dice

Whip cream and icing sugar together to form soft peaks. Fold into ricotta then mix in rest of ingredients till well incorporated.


Mascarpone filling

Mascarpone 250g

Cream 250g

Icing sugar 100g

Cherries preserved in syrup (maraschino or amarena) 50g, chopped

Pistachio nuts chopped 40g

Dark chocolate chopped 100g

Whip cream and icing sugar together to form soft peaks. Fold into mascarpone then mix in rest of ingredients till well incorporated.


Marsala Syrup

Marsala 80ml

Sugar syrup 100ml

Mix together.



Choose a stainless or ceramic round dome mould about 24cm in diameter. Cut ONE of the citrus sponge sheets into three rounds, 10cm, 14cm and 22cm diameter. Cut the other citrus and cocoa sponge sheets into truncated triangles to fit around the sides of the mould.

First lay clingfilm in the mould to make it easier to remove.

Now lay the small 10cm round sponge at the base of the mould and soak well with marsala syrup using a brush.

Lay alternate cocoa and citrus sponge triangles on sides of dome.

Soak the sponge with syrup.

Pipe the mascarpone filling in the mould to come about half way up.

Lay the 14cm round sponge in and press gently.

Soak the sponge again.

Fill with the ricotta mixture.

Lastly cover with the 22cm round piece of sponge.

Soak the sponge.

Wrap up the zuccotto with clingfilm and leave overnight in the fridge.

To serve cut a small wedge and spoon some amarena cherries, along with some of their syrup, over them. Serves 12-16.

Note: amarena cherries are imported from Italy in their own syrup and can be bought at good specialist purveyors



Citrus Sponge

6 eggs yolks

75g caster sugar

6 egg whites

150g caster sugar

80g plain flour, sifted

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Cream the yolks and the first amount of sugar until they are thick and fluffy.

Whip the egg whites and second amount of sugar together until they form soft peaks.

Now fold the two mixtures and the flour together, along with lemon rind.

Spread onto two 30x40cm baking sheets and bake in a preheated oven 180c till just cooked.


Cocoa sponge

400g eggs

200g sugar

80g plan flour

60g cornstarch

60g cocoa powder

Beat the eggs with the sugar till pale and forms a ribbon. Sift the flour with the cornstarch and cocoa powder then slowly sprinkle into the egg mixture and mix. Spread on a 30x40cm tray and bake in 180C oven till cooked through.

**Baking time always depends on the quantity of batter and oven type.