Zuppa Inglese – An Italian Trifle

February 9, 2017

Zuppa Inglese is an Italian trifle. It is a classic Italian dessert which consists of layers of sponge cake moistened with liqueur alternating with pastry cream

Valentine’s day is coming up. Maybe you are thinking of spoiling your loved one with a romantic meal at home. There is nothing nicer than some time spent together enjoying a special meal and delighting in each others company. In this busy modern life it is easy to spend time passing each other like ships in the night. Why not use Valentine’s Day as a chance to reconnect?

Italy is a place that is dear to my heart. It is where my husband and I went on our honeymoon. Visiting Florence, Rome and Venice among other cities was a memorable and romantic trip. The Italian language is lyrical, the sun is warm and there is plenty of interest to see. One day we will go back. To remind my husband of our trip I am planning to create a zuppa inglese for Valentine’s day.

Zuppa inglese - an italian trifle

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa inglese is a traditional Italian dessert which originated in Northern Italy. The name zuppa inglese translates literally as “English soup”.  It has nothing to do with soup, although the texture is reminiscent of bread thickened soups common in central Italy.  Zuppa inglese is an Italian trifle made by moistening sponge with a traditional Italian liqueur Alchermes. This is a red liqueur that comes from Tuscany which is made by infusing alcohol with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla as well as other herbs and spices. This is layered with a mix of chocolate and vanilla pastry cream to make an impressive but simple dessert.

Alchermes can be difficult to get outside Italy. Different recipes use different substitutes. Any aromatic liqueur will work such as amaretto or Cointreau. If you are ambitious you could try making your own Alchermes. Fortunately I found the perfect substitute. Recently I was sent a bottle of Lanique rose liquer from 31 Dover, the drinks delivery company. Lanique is a liqueur that has been recreated from a long lost Prussian recipe. It is made with steam distilled rose oil which gives it the red colour, perfect for zuppa inglese. The 200 year old drink was enjoyed by the rich across Prussia until the Second World War when it disappeared. Recently it has been recreated and is the perfect drink for Valentine’s day. 31 Dover also have a range of other drinks and gifts perfect for Valentines Day and with next day delivery you can easily treat your loved one.

Lanique rose liquer

Making Zuppa Inglese

The dessert can be made the day before serving which gives you time to concentrate on making the rest of the meal on the day. The base of the dish is sponge which you can bake if you wish. While I was shopping I found some almond finger cookies which I knew would be perfect. I cut these in half and after brushing some lanique over them laid them in the base of the dish. Sponge fingers or amaretto biscuits would also work well.

Making pastry cream is one of those things that always sounds intimidating. It involves adding hot milk to a mixture of whisked eggs and flour. There is the ever present risk of ending up with scrambled eggs instead. The secret is in the mixing. Provided you add the hot mixture to the eggs slowly and keep stirring the mixture it should turn out perfectly. The home made pastry cream really nice and makes the dish special. Half of the pastry cream is mixed with chocolate whilst it is still hot. The mixture of chocolate and vanilla pastry cream make alternative layers over the sponge. It makes a striking dessert when served in a large dish. If you have any chocolate left over you could use it to make chocolate hearts which are perfect to decorate the top of the dessert.

Zuppa inglese - an italian trifle

Zuppa Inglese recipe

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese is an Italian trifle made from sponge brushed with liqueur and layers of chocolate and vanilla pastry cream
Author Alison


  • litres milk
  • tsp vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs
  • 12 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp cornflour
  • 150 g dark chocolate
  • Lanique liqueur
  • 10 almond finger biscuits or sponge fingers


  • In a large pan mix together the eggs and the cornflour until you get a smooth paste
  • Put the milk, vanilla essence and sugar in another pan.
  • Heat the milk mixture until it starts to simmer
  • Slowly add the milk to the egg mixture, stirring all the time
  • Place the pan on a low heat and stir until the mixture starts to thicken
  • Remove from heat and pour half the custard into a bowl with the broken up chocolate.
  • Stir until the chocolate melts
  • Brush each of the almond fingers with the lanique liqueur and place in the bottom of a large bowl.
  • Add a layer of vanilla custard and then a layer of chocolate custard.
  • Continue until all the custard is used up.
  • Leave to cool for at least four hours in the fridge
  • Before serving decorate with shaved chocolate.

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Why not pin the recipe to try later?

Zuppa inglese is an Italian trifle made from sponge brushed in liqueur covered with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream. A perfect dessert for Valentines day

I was sent a bottle of Lanique from 31 Dover to enable me to make the recipe. My opinions are my own.

10 responses to “Zuppa Inglese – An Italian Trifle”

  1. Suze says:

    The liqueur sounds like a very tasty addition. I wonder why it was called English zuppa as it’s from Italy, unless it’s because it’s a bit like a trifle?

  2. Ooh this looks rather lovely 🙂

  3. This is also a classic ice cream flavour, which, for some reason, ive never liked!

  4. This sounds totally delicious and perfect for Valentines day:-)

  5. Galina V says:

    What a beautiful liqueur, haven’t seen it before. I have first heard of Zuppa Inglese in Italy, it is a bit too sweet for my taste. 🙂

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