Zuccotto always appeared old to me. Old from the moment it was born. Of course such a name is not a great start towards the celebrity status. Thinking about it, it probably had a few moment of glory in the 80s. It dominated the cover of “The Book of Cakes” by Lisa Biondi, which my mother used to keep back then in her personal section of the living room library.
Sometimes, while I was looking for the Sacher recipe, I would throw a glimpse – half disgusted, half indifferent – to this specialty of Florentine origins. I used to feel so sad: a round and compressed something, with yellow-orange tones, of obscure content. It sounds like the description of a Multicentrum tablet.
Zuccotto, may it rest in peace, seemed dead and buried until when, some time ago, I found on the textbook Accademia Montersino the Mimosa cake recipe: a dome of sponge cake layers with Chantilly and flambé pineapple flavoured with lemon thyme.
Another glory from the 80’s, I immediately thought. How boring. I would have simply moved on had it not been for the fact that International Women’s Day was approaching, and that yellow dome seemed like a fantastic opportunity for a revival. Massive success. Soft, pleasantly aromatic and refreshing. From that day, Montersino’s sponge cake became a personal THE BEST OF, up there with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and since then Zuccotto became one of the most pleasant and creative times I spend in the kitchen.
Dear Lisa Biondi, this Zuccotto is dedicated to you, the woman whose cooking manuals were so popular when I was only a stubborn, chocolate-loving child: it’s never too late to review old traditions and celebrate them with a touch of modernity.
So here you go: Zuccotto with blueberries mousse and raspberry ganache, softened by a fluffy cover of decadent Italian merengue. Honestly Lucia, does this look like modernity to you? No, but inside I am old, a bit like Zuccotto.
for a perfect Zuccotto with blueberries and raspberry ganache
1. The italian meringue is probably the less easy aspect of the whole recipe. If you don’t feel comfortable in making it, you can cover the Zuccotto simply with vanilla-flavoured, lightly sweetened fresh cream.
2. Zuccotto can be made ahead and frozen.
3. Instead of blueberries, which flavour is less sharp, you can use strawberries or raspberries for the mousse. Wild berries provide a pleasant acidity to contrast the sweetness of the Italian merengue.
Food mixer or kitchen machine with whisk attachment, or electric beater
sieve rectangular oven dish 40×20 cm (or similar)
a long knife to cut the sponge cake
Zuccotto mold, or dome-shaped bowl 20/22 cm diameter
Blowtorch to brown the merengue
INGREDIENTS & METHOD
For the sponge cake (recipe by italian pastry chef Luca Montersino)
400 g eggs, room temperature
50 g egg yolks
167 g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
117 g plain flour (all purpose flour, Italian flour 180w)
50 g potato starch
32 g butter
1 g lemon zest
a tip of pure vanilla powder
Line the dish: cut a piece of baking paper slightly bigger than the base and 4 strips, and place them on the base and the sides.Pre-heat the oven at 200°.
Pour the eggs and the egg yolks in a saucepan, add the vanilla and the sugar and mix immediately, putting the saucepan on the fire.
When the mixture has reached 45°, transfer it in the food mixer bowl, with the wire whip attachment, and beat until you obtain a light, fluffy and spongy batter. Stop the mixer, add the lemon zest and the sieved flours, and incorporate with a spatula mixing from the bottom towards the top. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl (in the microwave is fine too). Add a bit of the mixture to the butter and mix well. Add the butter to the rest of the mixture and incorporate well with the spatula, being careful not to overbeat it.
Pour the batter onto the dish, until 2/3 of its height, and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Insert a toothpick and ensure that it comes out clean; remove from the oven and leave to cool down. Take the sponge out of the mold and remove any darker parts with a knife. Cut two slices approximately 5 mm thick and set aside.
The remaining sponge can be frozen for other recipes (or another Zuccotto) inside a well-sealed freezer bag.
For the Italian meringue (recipe by italian pastry chef Iginio Massari)
125 g egg whites (approximately 3) at room temperature
350 g castor sugar (first part) + 25 g castor sugar (second part)
113 g still mineral water
Add the egg whites to the food mixer bowl, using the wire whip attachment. Start preparing the Italian merengue by placing in a saucepan with pour spout first the water, and then the first part of the sugar. Let it warm up on high heat without mixing. The syrup must be removed from the fire once it reaches 116°.
Once the thermometer indicates 110°, begin to beat the egg whites at medium speed, gradually adding the 25 g of sugar. They don’t have to be too firm: they must be spongy and still soft enough when you pour the syrup.
Once the syrup has reached 116°, remove from the heat and slow down the food mixer to minimum speed, then pour half of the syrup in the middle of the egg whites. Immediately bring the speed to maximum for a few seconds, to perfectly incorporate the syrup to the egg whites. After approximately 20 seconds, lower the speed, pour the second half of the syrup and increase the speed once again. Continue to beat until the Italian merengue reaches 45 / 50° (you can measure the temperature with the thermometer). Once the merengue is completed, set aside approximately 100 g in a bowl covered with cling film and pour the rest into a piping bag with a plain round 1cm nozzle.
For the blueberry mousse (a variation of a recipe by italian pastry chef Luca Montersino)
250 g blueberry pulp (+ 200 g to moist the sponge cake, + a few whole blueberries to enrich the Zuccotto)
10 g gelatine
250 g fresh cream, whipped cold
110 g of Italian meringue
Warm up in a bowl in the microwave, or on the cooker, approximately 4 spoons of blueberry pulp, then melt into it the gelatine, previously soaked in cold water. Mix well and add the remaining pulp. Incorporate slowly to the Italian merengue, mixing with a spatula from the bottom towards the top. Finally add the whipped cream, mixing in the same way to avoid overbeating.
For the raspberry ganache
25+75 g fresh cream
65 g white chocolate
5 g acacia honey
7/8 fresh or frozen raspberries + a few raspberries to enrich the Zuccotto
Mash the raspberries with a fork. You can sieve the pulp to eliminate the seeds from the juice. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Warm up the 50g of cream with the honey, then pour it in 3 times on the melted chocolate and mix well with a spatula. Add the remaining cold cream and the mashed raspberries. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Whip the ganache and pour it into a piping bag.
This ganache is also perfect as macaron filling.
Composition of the cake
Line the inside of the zuccotto mold with cling film. Slice the cold sponge cake, having removed any darker bits. Use the slices to line the entire mold, covering up to the edges. If required, cut the slices so that they perfectly match. Pour a few spoons of blueberry mousse on the base and spread them on the whole sponge cake surface. Dose a generous quantity of raspberry ganache and create the first layer, completed with a few raspberries slightly pressed. Cover the ganache with a layer of sponge cake. Gently press with your hands to make the cake more compact. Brush the sponge cake with raspberry pulp and then pour the blueberry mousse. Add a few blueberry to the mousse and complete with the remaining layer of sponge cake, compacting well with your hands. Trim the cake top to make it even, cover the base with the cling film and transfer to the refrigerator, or to the freezer. Once the cake is firm, unmold it and cover with the Italian merengue using the piping bag, drawing stripes from the bottom to the center of the Zuccotto. Brown with a blowtorch and serve.