Cooking Becomes so Easy

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Serves: 12
100g / 3 1/2 oz unblanched almonds
100g / 3 1/2 oz blanched hazelnuts
150g / 5 oz plain chocolate (preferably with more than 55 per cent cocoa solids)
2 x 300g / 11 oz slabs of Madeira cake
3 tbsp Cognac or brandy
5 tbsp fresh orange juice
450ml / 3/4 pint double cream
100g / 3 1/2 oz icing sugar
4 tbsp apricot jam
icing sugar, for dusting

Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan. Roughly break up half the chocolate and melt in the microwave on High for 1 minute, or over a pan of simmering water. Chop the remaining chocolate and reserve.

Line a 1.25litre / 2 pint pudding basin with plastic film. Cut the cake into long vertical slices 1cm / 1/2 in wide (you are cutting down the length of the cake, not across as you would normally). Trim off the curved top from half of the slices, then cut these slices in half lengthwise on a slight diagonal to give you wedge-shaped pieces. Trim each slice to the depth of the inside of the basin, then arrange them, slightly overlapping, so they line the basin.

Cut a slice of cake to fit the bottom of the basin. Fill any gaps with small pieces of the cake. Mix the Cognac or brandy and the orange juice. Spoon about two-thirds of this liquid over the cake in the pudding basin, making sure it is evenly soaked.

Whip the cream until stiff. Fold in the nuts, icing sugar and chopped chocolate. Spoon half this mixture into the cake-lined basin; spread evenly over the bottom and sides, leaving a cavity in the centre.

Fold the melted chocolate into the remaining cream mixture. Spoon this into the cavity and smooth the top. Cover the top with the remaining cake, cutting the slices to fit. Spoon over the remaining orange juice mixture.

Cover with plastic film and chill overnight, or for up to 2 days.

To serve, remove the covering film and place a serving plate on top. Invert the basin on to the plate; carefully remove the bowl and peel off the plastic film. Warm the jam, then press through a sieve into a bowl. Brush the top and sides of the cake with jam glaze, then lightly dust with icing sugar. Serve the Zuccotto cut into wedges.

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