What if I told you that the Zuppa Inglese is not from the UK?
The Christmas festivities are approaching and dessert becomes a big player on Italian tables. When dining with friends and family, the best way to end a meal is with a cake, the famous Panettone, or a "dessert cream" such as the world-famous Tiramisu and the Zuppa Inglese.
Delicious desserts that are easy to make and of relatively recent origin, but which boast an ancient common ancestor, born right in the Tuscan hills by the expert hands of Siena's pastry chefs: the Zuppa del Duca.
This was in the 17th century when Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici visited Siena with his wife Mary of Orleans. At the end of a lavish welcome banquet, the couple was served a dessert created especially for them that combined the wife's French culinary tradition with the Duke's Italian heritage.
A bed of sweet bread, topped with a cream made of milk, egg yolk, honey, and the latest and most sought-after cocoa from the Americas, all soaked in a special liqueur, so dear to an ancestor of the Duke, Caterina de Medici, who made it known and appreciated in France as "Liquore de Medici," a forerunner of today's Alkermes.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Zuppa del Duca was prized and popular, especially in Florence, where it began to be served in the historic Caffè Ristorante Doney, the preferred spot of many English citizens who lived on the banks of the Arno and who came to the establishment precisely to enjoy the famous Zuppa.
Over the years, the recipe was revisited and modified during the 19th century with the addition of Rhum and renamed "Zuppa Inglese" (English Pudding) just in honor of the customers of Doney's Coffee House.
What about its more famous cousin, the Tiramisu?
It originates from a more recent revival of the Zuppa del Duca in northern Italy, where it spread in Treviso, with the addition of coffee, under the name "Tirami Su" (literally, "lift me up").
We have included the recipe for the Zuppa Inglese in our Buon Natale Box.
How about you?
Did you know the history of this creamy dessert?
Let us know in the comments.
* In the pic you can see the historic Doney Cafè in Florence where during the 19th century the Zuppa del Duca then Zuppa Inglese was served.