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Zuppa Inglese with script

Buon giorno!

With the holidays upon us, what more perfect way to celebrate family and friends than with a fabulous dessert that will leave them talking long after the last Champagne or Prosecco cork is popped?! Zuppa Inglese Al Limone (Zuppa Ingese with Lemon) is just such a dessert! As someone once said -and now for the “beauty part”: It can and should be made a day ahead!

Zuppa Inglese

OK – so what exactly is Zuppa Inglese anyway? A fair translation is English Soup. Now you ask – why does she suggest soup for dessert? Well – because it’s not soup! It is the Italian version of English Trifle – the very traditional British dish, known for it’s appearance at high tea – very often made with sherry, jam, and custard. Many years ago at just such a high tea, I experienced an amazing version of Trifle in Bristol, England, while visiting the thatch roofed cottage of a lovely British family. A beautiful glass bowl which had been in the family for generations for just this purpose held layers of fruit, jam, cake soaked in sherry with a rich custard, and the wonderful Double Cream for which the British are so famous. Jolly good – but…

In my humble opinion, the Italians, even if accused of playing copy-cat, have cornered the cookbook on this one. This is a dessert presented with pride and fanfare at the holiday tables of Tuscany and Umbria in particular. The addition of Limoncello, as well as lemon curd, in this version of  Zuppa Inglese, give it a warm and velvety lemon kick. This dessert is all lemon and cream right up to the raspberries that crown the top. My mother, Loretta, would have loved this one as she had a passion for whipped cream and anything made with it.  Mom, this one’s for YOU!

About Limoncello –Of all the Italian after dinner pick-me-ups, Limoncello is by far my favorite. There is something wonderful and “tummy settling” about this smooth lemony elixir that always seems to close a meal or an evening on just the right note. The lemon flavor clears the palate and its “not too sweet-ness” finishes a meal leaving the taste buds in a happy zone. It bears an intense lemon flavor without the tartness. This dessert is best served chilled and most often kept in the freezer or refrigerator until it makes its appearance at the table.

Of course, there might be just the hint of bias in my strong preference for this lovely liquid in that it hails from the homeland region of ma famiglia, Napoli! This bay area with the beautiful Amalfi coast nearby is famous for its large and golden abundance of lemon trees growing almost everywhere. It is hardly surprising that this bounty of lemons would give birth to such a heavenly concoction as Limoncello..

With the assistance of this very special liqueur, Zuppa Inglese Al Limone makes a beautiful entrance on your holiday table. It is lovely to look at and will provide the desired drama and “flash” that every special event requires. It is the single course that when introduced to your guests will elicit the cry of “Finalemente!” (FINALLY! AT LAST!)

Of course, I suggest serving it with a small glass of Limoncello alongside the plate! -unless, you just happen to have some of my good friend Carolyn’s homemade Blueberry Vodka which would compliment this dessert as well. If you have that good fortune, you might switch the raspberries on the top with fresh blueberries which are are known to have a long time “partnership” with lemon!

In fact, those celebrating Hanukkah might actually prefer to top this beautiful lemon tower with both blueberries and some of the lovely silver sugary balls called “dragees”  used in cake decorating, thus using the blue and silver colors most often thought of with the season.

This beautiful dessert, served with a large spoon, would also offer a splendid finale to a New Year’s Eve celebration accompanied by Asti Spumante, Prosecco, or Champagne.

It needs no further introduction…

Rasberry dessert_0008


1 Lemon Pound Cake – I make my own, but you can purchase one. Of course, it is always better homemade – the more lemony the better!


16 oz Mascarpone Cheese (very much like cream cheese – but better!)

1/2 c. sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. Limoncello

1 1/2 tsp Lemon extract

Beat the above together until soft and combined.


12 oz Heavy Cream

Fold into the above Mascarpone mixture gently until combined.

Lemon Curd – About 2 1/2 cups – you can make your own or purchase many fine examples of this product jarred in the baking section of most grocery stores.

1 c. Candied Lemon Peel – chopped

I strongly suggest making your own. It is wonderful, easy, fun to do, and can be used in so many other things or on its own. It is more fun than anything you will ever do–OOPS – well almost anything!

The extra homemade peel is also delicious dipped in dark chocolate and served with coffee or espresso.. Here is a link to one of my previous posts on making your own. Click Here

Purchased Candied Lemon Peel is fine as well and is available all through the holidays at your grocer usually in or near the produce department.


1 c. Heavy Cream

2 Tbsp Sugar

2 tsp. Lemon Zest

Whip the above 3 items together and reserve for the top.


Use a trifle bowl or glass bowl of some sort as this is pretty to look at through the glass. Also, an alternative is to make individual versions of this recipe so that each guest has his own. Follow the same instructions, but use large goblets or oversized Martini glasses instead of the single bowl.

You will need about another 1/2 c. Limoncello depending on how much you like for brushing the cake. I like to brush liberally with the liqueur.

Slice your lemon pound cake in 1/4 inch thick slices, carefully removing any crusty edges and brush both sides of the cakes slices with the 1/2 c. Limoncello.


Lay the pieces of brushed cake on the bottom of the bowl and begin layering first with cake.


Next spread 1/3 of the Lemon Curd over the brushed cake slices. If making individual

Zuppas”, use about 2 tbsp. of the curd per layer. See photo:

Rasberry dessert_0001

Then follow with 1/3 of the Mascarpone cream mixture spreading across the curd.

Finally add a sprinkling of the chopped Candied Lemon Peel.


This completes the layer.

Do this 2 more times, making 3 layers in all, ending with a “topper” of brushed cake slices.


Cover the top layer of cake with the Topping noted above: Whipped Cream containing sugar and lemon zest that you made and reserved.

Note on making individual “Zuppas”: Amounts for making individual versions will vary according to size of glasses used. You might choose to do two layers instead of three as they can be quite rich. As a guide for you, I made 6 goblets using ½ the given amounts of ingredients in the recipe.

If making one large “Zuppa” in a trifle bowl or similar: the recipe as written will make one large bowl.

Zuppa Inglese - another view with script

Decorate the top with Fresh Raspberries and dust with powdered sugar. Refrigerate OVERNIGHT. This is important. It needs to set. The whiteness of the powdered sugar should disappear once refrigerated, and leave in its place a sugary icy coating on the berries which will glisten in the candle glow of your table. It is truly magical!




Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. Do you cover this overnight?