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11 Mar 2015 No Bake Sweet

Lemon Zuccotto with Passionfruit Syrup

Zuccotto is an Italian dessert that consists of a dome of cake filled with ice cream and resembling a ‘little pumpkin’ (which is what it translates as). This recipe is a twist on the Italian classic, filled with a lemon mousse instead of ice cream, and served covered in fragrant passionfruit syrup. You can use canned passionfruit pulp rather than fresh if you prefer. As the mousse filling is made with raw eggs, it is not advisable for very young children, pregnant women or anyone frail.


Line the pudding basin with cling film, leaving a 10cm excess hanging over the edge.

For the filling, soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl in just enough cold water to cover and leave for 5-10 minutes until softened.

Prepare the outer cake shell: if the Madeira cakes have crusts on the long sides (left and right), trim these off. Cut each cake lengthways into five slices about 1.5cm wide, then lay each slice flat and cut it diagonally in half so you get two long thin triangles.

Arrange about two-thirds of the triangles flat against the cling film in the basin, with the pointed ends at the bottom and the crust side of one slice against the cut edge of the next, until the bowl is lined. The slices may break up a little but simply press them back together in the basin. If the pointy ends start to pile up a bit in the bottom, just squidge them down with your fingers. Reserve the remaining cake slices for now. Brush the lemon juice all over the inside or use the limoncello if you prefer. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Put the lemon juice and zest into a small saucepan and place on a low heat to warm through gently. Remove just as it comes to the boil. Squeeze the excess water from the now-softened gelatine, stir it into the lemon juice until dissolved and leave aside to cool.

Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and add the sugar. Beat with an electric whisk until smooth and thickened slightly. Whisk the egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form – if you lift a bit of egg white on the whisk the peak should droop slightly. Whisk the cream in another bowl until just stiff.

Gently fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture, followed by the egg whites and then the lemon juice mixture, carefully folding until well blended. Spoon the filling into the cake-lined basin and smooth the top. Cover with the excess cling film and chill in the fridge for 2 hours until just set.

Meanwhile, make the passionfruit syrup. Scoop the passionfruit pulp into a small saucepan and add the sugar and 50ml of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and then reduce the heat to simmer for 2-3 minutes until thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool and thicken further.

Once the filling has chilled for 2 hours, remove the zuccotto from the fridge. Open the cling film out and arrange the remaining cake slices over the top in an even layer (or two layers if you have that many) to cover. Place a saucer on top, pressing it down firmly, cover tightly with cling film and return to the fridge for a further hour or overnight until set. It can be made to this stage a day in advance.

When ready to serve, remove the saucer from the zuccotto, place a serving plate or cake stand upside down on top and turn the whole thing over. Remove the basin and carefully peel the cling film off. Gradually spoon about half of the passionfruit syrup over to drizzle down. Cut into eight wedges and serve with the remaining syrup in a small jug.


This recipe is from my book, No-Bake Baking, available worldwide in all good bookstores and on Amazon.

Photo © Donal Skehan

You will need...


2 × 280g shop-bought Madeira cakes (each roughly 15cm × 7.5cm)
Juice of 1 large lemon or 3 tbsp limoncello liqueur


6 gelatine leaves
Juice and finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
300ml double cream


250ml passionfruit pulp (from about 12 fresh passionfruits)

100g caster sugar


1.2 litre pudding basin

Electric whisk

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