Zuccotto is a traditional Italian desert with origins in Florence. Some say the cupola shape was inspired by the Duomo in Florence, Italy; others speculate that zuccotto is a play on zucca, which is the Italian word for pumpkin. Zuccotto is a wonderful dessert for a festive occasion. Make it up to three days in advance – it improves with time. It's not too sweet inside and I like it, but if you like it sweet feel free to add more sugar. Also, I recommend to add a little bit of pink food colouring into the central part of the filling.
4 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
25g butter, melted
500g cherries, stones removed
1/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur or brandy
4 tablespoons icing sugar
¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel
300ml double cream
food colouring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter a 30cm x 20cm Swiss roll tin and a 20 cm round tin, then line the base with baking paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt until thick and pale. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together over the mixture and gently fold in then fold in the butter. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 15 minutes. Turn out and cool on a rack.
Put the cherries in a saucepan with the sugar and orange juice. Cover and simmer over a very low heat for 10 minutes until tender. Strain the cherries and set aside, reserving the juice. When the juice is cool, add 2 tablespoons of the Grand Marnier and set aside.
Line a 6-7 cup pudding basin or bowl with plenty of plastic wrap. Cut the sponge into long triangular pieces and use to line the inside of the basin. Moisten the sponge, including the piece for the top, with the reserved cherry juice.
Place the ricotta and 3 tablespoons of the icing sugar and the remaining tablespoon of Grand Marnier in a bowl and beat until smooth. Fold in the orange peel and half the poached cherries. Whisk the cream to just beyond soft peaks (it should be firm but not overwhipped). Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the ricotta mixture and fold in gently. Spread this mixture over the sponge.
Place the remaining cherries, food colouring and icing sugar in a food processor and blend to a purée. Place the cherry purée in a bowl and fold in the remaining whipped cream. Fill the centre of the sponge with this mixture. Place the remaining piece of sponge on the top then cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 3 days.
Turn out on to a plate to serve.