Zuppa Inglese

This article is about the dessert. For the building in Rome colloquially named after the dessert, see Altare della Patria.
Zuppa Inglese

Italian custard based dessert
Course Dessert
Place of origin Italy
Region or state Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Toscana, Lazio, Umbria
Serving temperature Cold
Main ingredients Sponge cake or savoiardi, Alchermes, custard
Variations Tiramisu
Cookbook: Zuppa Inglese  Media: Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese (pronounced [ˈtsuppa iŋˈɡleːse]; Italian for "English soup") is an Italian dessert layering custard and sponge cake, perhaps derived from trifle.


Recipes for this sweet first appeared in the regions Emilia-Romagna (in the towns of Parma, Bologna, Forlì, Ferrara, and Reggio Emilia), Marches, Umbria and Latium regions, in the late nineteenth century.[1][2]

Its origins are uncertain and one theory states that it originated in the sixteenth century kitchens of the Dukes of Este, the rulers of Ferrara. According to this story, they asked their cooks to recreate the sumptuous "English trifle" they had enjoyed in England at the Elizabethan court, where they were frequent visitors.[3]

To make Zuppa Inglese, sponge cake or ladyfingers are dipped in Alchermes, a bright red, extremely aromatic Italian herb liqueur. They are then alternated with layers of crema pasticciera, a thick egg custard cooked with a large piece of lemon zest (removed afterwards). Often there is also a layer of crema alla cioccolata made by dissolving dark chocolate in a plain crema pasticcera. In Italy it is occasionally topped with cream, meringue or almonds.[3]


Zuppa Inglese is also a popular gelato flavour.[4]


The word "zuppa" in Italian cuisine refers to both sweet and savoury dishes. It comes from the verb "inzuppare" which means "to dunk". As the sponge cake or Lady fingers are dipped in liqueur the dish is called Zuppa. Similarly, thick fish, bean with vegetable stews, and fish or shellfish stews are properly described as "zuppa di verdure" or "zuppa di pesce". These savory dishes are served on toasted bread and eaten with knife and fork.

There are other theories as to the origin of the name.[5]

"The name translates literally in Italian as English soup and may in fact connote its similarity to English trifle. Others believe it is a dialectical corruption of the verb inzuppare, meaning to sop."[6]
"A dessert invented by Neapolitan pastrycooks of Europe during the 19th century. Inspired by English puddings that were fashionalbe [sic] at the time, . . . "[7]
"This rich dessert was among the many tributes bestowed on Lord Nelson by the grateful Neapolitans after his victory over Napoleon in the Nile in 1798. "English Soup", as it was called, was the creation of an anonymous pastry cook smitten with the admiral, the English, and their spirit-soaked Trifles."[8]


  1. La Cucina del Bel Paese (883-885). La cucina del Bel Paese
  2. Gladys Gretton, The Englishwoman in Italy, Hurst and Blackett, 1860 (page 163).
  3. 1 2 "Zuppa Inglese (Traditional Italian Pudding)". Academia Barilla. Retrieved 28 May 2016. Zuppa inglese was made for the first time in the 16th century for Dukes of Este, residing in Ferrara. Legend has it that the dessert was created by the court chefs when a diplomat from Ferrara asked for a trifle, a typical British dessert made with a sweet ring cake, cream and wine, after returning from a trip to England.
  4. "Gelato Zuppa Inglese". Gelato in casa. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  5. "FAQs: charlotte to millet". Food Timeline. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  6. Mariani, John. Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink. New York: Broadway Books, 1998 (p. 286)
  7. Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Updated and Revised. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2001 (p. 1310)
  8. American Heritage. The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking through the Ages, New York: Doubleday, 1968 (p. 710)
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