Zuppa Inglese-a Classic Italian Trifle


Zuppa Inglese – a Classic Italian Trifle

Zuppa Inglese is a traditional Italian dessert that layers chocolate and vanilla custard with sponge finger biscuits soaked in Alchermes liqueur or sweet fortified wine. This recipe uses cornflour custard in place of egg custard to make a lighter version of the desert that is  so delicious.



  • Savoiardi Biscuits
  • Dessicated coconut or  finely crushed Amaretti Biscuits (to cover the top of the trifle)
  • Marsala al Uovo, (traditionally the liqueur Alchermes is used to soak the biscuits which colours them a dark pink and so, adds a third layer of colour. As Alchermes is often not easily available, use any liqueur or fortified wine that you prefer.)

Vanilla Custard:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2Tblsp cornflour, heaped
  • 2 1/2 Tblsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Custard:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 Tblsp cornflour, heaped
  • 2 1/2 Tblsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tblsp dark dutch cocoa, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Make the two custards using two saucepans. When one is finished push down some baking paper onto the surface of the cooked custard and cover with a lid to prevent a skin from forming. Alternately I make both at the same time, whisking each and making one on a slightly lower heat so that they are cooked within minutes of each other. The custard will be easier to handle. The choice is yours.

  1. In two separate glasses, dissolve the 2 Tblsp of cornflour for each custard, with enough of the milk from each allocation of milk to make it into a runny liquid and set the two glasses aside
  2. Use two saucepans, one for each custard
  3. For the vanilla custard, bring the remaining milk , sugar and vanilla extract to the boil over a moderate heat, whisking until the sugar is fully dissolved over a meduium-low heat.
  4. For the chocolate custard, dissolve the cocoa with a little of the milk and then add it to the rest of the milk, sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until all is dissolved.over a medium-low heat.
  5. When the custard reaches boiling point ( bubbles appear on the surface) lower the heat and remove the saucepan from the heat
  6. Give the cornflour a quick stir
  7. Then whisk through the dissolved cornflour mixture into the hot custard and return to the stove
  8. Bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring constantly across the whole saucepan so that the custard does not catch
  9. When bubbles appear cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  10. Set aside and place some baking paper over the surface of the custard and cover with the saucepan lid.
  11. Return to the second saucepan and repeat from steps 6-10
  12. Wet the mould
  13. Place some marsala mixed with some water into a large bowl. As the savoirdi take quite a bit of the liqueur, adding water stops the final trifle from having too much alcohol
  14. Scratch the surface of each savoiardi biscuit to make it easier for the marsala to penetrate the biscuits
  15. using one bicuit at a time, place the savoiardi in the marsala and leave for a moment to absorb then turn over and repeat. The savoiardi should have enough marsala or they will be too dry
  16. Place a layer of savoiardi horizontally across the mould
  17. Spoon a layer of chocolate custard over the biscuits.
  18. Place another layer of soaked savoiardi biscuits but this time run them the opposite way
  19. Spoon a layer of vanilla custard over the biscuit layer
  20. Place another layer of soaked savoiardi biscuits over the vanilla custard running them horizontally this time
  21. Spoon the remaining chocolate custard over the biscuits and any of the vanilla custard over that
  22. Dust the top of the trifle with a good scattering of dessicated coconut or finely crushed amaretti biscuits
  23. Refrigerate overnight for the best results and serve in slices
The final layered zuppa inglese ready for the fridge.
Half a slice of the zuppa inglese


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