A Creamy and Alcoholic Zuppa Inglese Recipe

Despite its name, the Zuppa Inglese is an Italian trifle-like dessert whose origins seem to come from the Emilia Romagna region. It is a layered dessert made either with sponge cake or with ladyfingers soaked in an Alchermes liqueur, alternated with vanilla and chocolate custard. This dessert is widely appreciated on the Italian Christmas tables where many variations are served, adding dried fruit or dipping the ladyfingers in other liqueurs. 

This is the version we’ve served on our Christmas tables. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS for 4 servings glasses:
20 minutes + 2 hour, cooling

  • 1 L (4 cups) milk
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 430 g (16.5 oz – 2 cup) sugar
  • 80 g  (2.5 oz – 1 1/6 cup) flour
  • zest of 1 lemon (medium size)
  • 30 g (1.2 oz – 1/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 16 ladyfingers
  • 250 ml Alchermes liqueur


  • Place the milk and lemon zest over medium heat. Cook until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks, 350 g of sugar and the flour in a bowl until well combined.
  • Pour the hot milk mixture over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
    Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat. Cook, while stirring steadily in the same direction, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Do not allow custard to boil, as it might curdle.
  • Divide the custard in two and pour them into two bowls. Mix the cocoa powder in one of the half custards. Cover the surface with cling film and leave them to cool down.
  • Bring to a boil 170 g of water and 80 g of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Mix the Alchermes liqueur into the sugar syrup and pour into a bowl.
  • Dip 2 ladyfingers into the Alchermes syrup and layer them into a serving glass (cut and arrange them to get a flat layer). Cover with plain custard and then add another layer of 2 soaked ladyfingers. Add a layer of chocolate custard. Continue with the other glasses.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream or crumbled ladyfingers.

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