Traditional Italian desserts like this easy Italian Christmas zuccotto cake are the perfect treat for after dinner. This beautiful Italian dessert is made with pound loaf (pound cake), mascarpone cheese, chocolate, and more. There are only nine ingredients in this simple Italian liqueur cake and the multicolour sprinkles give it a fun look.
One of the nicest Italian Christmas desserts and the best zuccotto recipe ever, this delectable cake is so good. It’s a wonderful combination of sponge cake, soft cheese, coloured sprinkles, chocolate, and amaretto liqueur. This classic Italian dessert is a family favourite!
Easy Italian Christmas Zuccotto Cake Ingredients
The Italian word for pumpkin, ‘zucca’, is behind the name of this tasty cake. Zuccotto is Italian for ‘little pumpkin’ because this cake is made with triangular pieces of cake and resembles a pumpkin.
The ingredients you need for it are prepared pound cake, amaretto liqueur, chocolate, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, sprinkles, and cocoa powder. It’s easier to use a readymade pound cake but if you want to make your own you absolutely can. This rum pound cake would be delicious.
Amaretto liqueur is an almond flavoured alcoholic drink. If you do love almonds, I bet you’ll love these amaretti cookies as well. Prefer not to use any alcohol? Then you can sub amaretto flavour syrup or almond extract for the amaretto liqueur.
How to Make the Best Zuccotto Recipe
Cut a pound cake into slices and then cut each slice in half to make triangles. Use plastic wrap to line a clean large bowl and then arrange the cake triangles in there in a starburst pattern along the sides of the prepared bowl. Hold on to any extra triangles and remaining cake slices, as you will use them later.
Brush amaretto liqueur (or amaretto flavour syrup if you prefer) over the cake triangles. Whip some heavy cream to stiff peaks while you melt the dark chocolate. Fold some of the cream mixture into the melted chocolate, followed by the rest. Mix in some grated chocolate or even mini chocolate chips, too.
Spread this chocolate mixture over the cake triangles in the bowl. Whisk more heavy cream with powdered sugar and set it to one site. Whip some of the mascarpone with powdered sugar as well as some more amaretto liqueur.
Next add the whipped cream to the mascarpone and whisk until you get stiff peaks. You can also mix with an electric mixer at medium speed until firm peaks form. Keep a little of this mixture aside and mix the sprinkles into the rest. Fill the cake with the mascarpone mixture and then arrange the rest of the cake triangles to create a sponge cake layer on top of the zuccotto.
Brush amaretto on top, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and chill the Dome of Florence shaped cake for several hours so it sets. When you’re ready to serve it, invert the cake on to a cake plate, cake board or platter, discard the plastic wrap and sprinkle cocoa powder over it. The bottom of the zuccotto (bottom of the bowl) is now the top of the dessert! Pipe the rest of the mascarpone mixture on top and serve.
Zuccotto Recipe Facts
For sure one of the prettiest traditional Italian cake recipes, this creamy Italian dessert cake has an interesting story behind it. Zuccotto cake was invented by Bernardo Buontalenti at a banquet for the Medici family. He is the same Buontalenti who invented ice cream.
Not only does ‘zucca’ mean pumpkin in Italy but also ‘head’ in Tuscany and the first ones were made in dome-shaped helmets. There are lots of different ways to make it, each with slightly different ingredients and steps, but it’s always made in the form of a dome. This is the best zuccotto recipe!
Creamy desserts are always extra special for the holidays, and this spongy Italian dessert with chocolate cream is perfect. Everything from the amaretto-soaked cake triangles to the sweet creamy mascarpone mixture to the rich chocolate flavour is so good, and you can make this cake ahead and just leave it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
Zuccotto cake is one of those recipes with a wow factor that is perfect for a special occasion. Another idea that would pair well with this dessert if you want to have more options, is Baked Alaska recipe.
Zuccotto Recipe Variations
Instead of amaretto liqueur, you could try using cherry brandy or Grand Marnier instead.
Easy Italian Christmas Zuccotto Cake FAQs
It’s best to serve this cake the day you make it if possible, with the reason being the sprinkles start to bleed out their colour if you keep it too long. That won’t affect the flavour of course!
Either use a glass bowl to make it or invest in a zuccotto mould because you’ll definitely want to make this creamy Italian dessert more than once.
Easy Italian Christmas Zuccotto Cake Recipe
Easy Italian Christmas Zuccotto Cake
- 1 Loaf pound cake 16 Ounces
- 1/3 Cup amaretto
- 5 Ounces dark chocolate chips
- 2 1/2 Cups heavy whipping cream
- 4 Ounces dark chocolate bar
- 8 Ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 Cup icing sugar
- 2 Tablespoons sprinkles Christmas coloured, plus more for decoration
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- Slice the pound cake into ⅓” to ½” slices, then cut each piece in half diagonally from corner to corner to create long triangles.
- Fully line the inside of a 1 ½ or 2 quart bowl with plastic wrap. Then line the plastic wrap lined bowl with the triangles of pound cake in any design you would like, just be sure to place the pieces tightly together to avoid any gaps. You should have some leftover pieces, you will use these later.
- Lightly brush the pound cake that is lining the bowl with Amaretto.
- In a microwave safe bowl, melt the dark chocolate chips. Set aside to cool down for a few minutes.
- While the chocolate is cooling, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to stiff peaks.
- When the chocolate is cool, but still melted, fold ½ of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate. Once it is mostly combined, add the remaining whipped cream and continue to gently fold until combined.
- Grate or shave 3oz of the dark chocolate bar into the chocolate mousse mixture, and fold to combine.
- Spread the chocolate mousse to cover the pound cake lining the bowl, set in the fridge while you work on the next filling.
- Whip the remaining 1 ½ cups of heavy cream with ¼ cup of the powdered sugar to very soft peaks. Set aside.
- Whip the 8oz of mascarpone cheese with the remaining ¼ cup of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of the Amaretto.
- Add the whipped cream to the mascarpone and whip until you achieve stiff peaks.
- Reserve about ½ to ¾ cup of the mascarpone whipped cream to use for decorating later.
- Fold 2 tablespoons of christmas sprinkles into the mascarpone whipped cream, be very gentle and do not over mix – to prevent the sprinkles from bleeding too much.
- Take the cake out of the fridge and fill to almost the top with the mascarpone whipped cream.
- Use the remaining triangles of pound cake to cover the top of the cream all the way to the edges, closing the filling in. Then brush the top of the pound cake with Amaretto.
- Cover the cake with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and invert the cake onto a serving platter. Remove the bowl and any remaining plastic wrap carefully.
- Lightly sift the cocoa powder all over the exterior of the cake.
- Pipe the remaining mascarpone whipped cream in the circle around the top of the cake dome.
- Shave the remaining chocolate bar and fill the inside of the whipped cream circle with the chocolate shavings.
- Sprinkle the whipped cream with more Christmas sprinkles.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
If you like Italian Christmas desserts, I just know you will agree this is the best zuccotto recipe of all time. It’s one of the most popular Italian desserts and combines sweet cream with chocolate, sprinkles, amaretto liqueur, and pound cake.
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.