Zuccotto is a cake made in Tuscany in the shape of a dome, or, some say, a skull cap.
It consists of pieces of sponge cake (Pan di Spagna) along with whipped cream or mousse, chocolate and nuts. It often has a layer of fruit for its base.
To make Zuccotto you line a mould or a bowl with pieces of sponge or pound cake, that have first been doused in an alcohol such as brandy or Grand Marnier. Fancier designs put pieces of cake intermittently, so that they will look like the ribs in a cathedral dome. Then you fill the inside with the cream, chocolate and nuts, topping if desired with a layer of fruit or more slices of alcohol-soaked cake.
The cake is then refrigerated for up to a day to get it solid, then inverted for serving out onto a plate. It can then be dusted if desired with icing sugar. It is served cold.
The nuts are usually almonds and/or hazelnuts. The chocolate used is bitter chocolate.
You can buy special plastic moulds to shape them in. Whether it is being done in a mould or a bowl, the mould or bowl is often buttered first, then lined with parchment or waxed paper, to make turning it out in one piece more of a guaranteed thing.
Zuccotto alla Contadina
A simpler version is called “Zuccotto alla Contadina”, meaning “rural” or “peasant” Zuccotto.
Ricotta is mixed with honey and mashed fruits and formed by hand into a dome shape on a plate, then refrigerated for at least 6 hours.
It is decorated on the outside with fruit. Serve cold.
“Zuccotto” is a word in dialect in Tuscany that means “skull cap”, such as worn by cardinals of the Church.