Zuppa Inglese

Sponge cake:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pour the melted butter into a 1-quart bowl; reserve. Return the sifted flour to the sifter or sieve and add 1 tbsp of the sugar and the salt; sift onto a piece of waxed paper and set aside.

Put the eggs and the remaining sugar into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer (or work with a hand-held mixer). Holding the whisk attachment from the mixer in your hand, beat the mixture to blend the ingredients. With the bowl and whisk attachment in place, whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale, and tripled in volume, like softly whipped cream, 4 to 5 minutes. You’ll know that the eggs are properly whipped when you lift the whisk and the mixture falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds. If the ribbon immediately sinks into the mixture, continue whipping for a few more minutes. Pour in the vanilla extract during the last moments of whipping.

Detach the bowl from the mixer. Sprinkle about one third of the sifted flour mixture over the batter. Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula, stopping as soon as the flour is incorporated. Fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.

Gently spoon about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl with the melted butter and fold the butter in with the rubber spatula. Fold this mixture into the batter in the mixer bowl. (This is the point at which the batter is at its most fragile, so fold gingerly.) The batter should be poured into a prepared pan and baked immediately.

Bake at 350° about 25-27 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched and just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool in pan about 10 minutes then remove, cooling right-side up on cooling rack.

Sugar Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp limoncello

Mix ingredients. Bring to boil in small saucepan and boil about 1 minute. Cool and set aside.

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the milk and lemon zest to just below the boiling point; remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and vanilla as you beat with a whisk, then slowly beat in the hot milk, still whisking. Pour the mixture into the pot in which you heated the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate 2 hours.

Meringue

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Whip egg whites. Slowly add sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks are formed.

To assemble

Slice cake horizontally into three layers. Cut to snugly fit bottom of baking dish. Liberally douse with sugar syrup. Cover with half the pastry cream. Place second layer of cake on top, press down, again liberally douse with sugar syrup and the rest of the pastry cream. Top with final layer of cake.

Completely seal top of dish with meringue. Place in 450° oven about 5 minutes to brown meringue.

Serve at room temperature.