The Italian cake for birthdays and weddings

a slice of a creamy cake with a layer of chocolate on a white dish

The Sacripantina cake

Torta Sacripantina, or Sacripantina Cake, is an Italian traditional cake created by Giovanni Preti, the owner of a pastry shop in Genova, in 1851. It can be enjoyed by the slice at bakeries or at the restaurant, but the Sacripantina cake is mostly served on weddings, birthdays, and all the special occasions.

The Sacripantina Cake is made of three layers of liqueur-soaked sponge cake separated by layers of cream filling – or, as in our recipe version, by layers of zabaglione (click and listen to the correct pronunciation). In this case: coffee zabaglione and chocolate zabaglione.

Why is it called Sacripantina cake?

The name Sacripantina comes from literature: Sacripante is the hero of Orlando furioso (The Frenzy of Orlando), the Italian epic poem written by Ludovico Ariosto in 1516. The pronunciation of Sacripantina is sah-kree-pahn-tee-nah. Click and listen to the audio pronunciation of Sacripantina.

The ingredients of the Sacripantina cake

If you want to make a Sacripantina cake for 8 or 10, you will need:

250 g of unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 250g mascarpone (click and listen how to pronounce it)
150 g of dark chocolate (cioccolato), melted and cooled
2 tbsp of cooled espresso
25 cm round sponge cake
80 ml Maraschino or other cherry liqueur
80 ml of Cointreau
80 ml of brandy
for dusting, icing sugar

The ingredients to make Italian zabaglione

7 egg yolks
150g of caster (superfine) sugar
150ml of Marsala

How to make Italian Zabaglione

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large, heatproof bowl and beat with an electric beater for 5 minutes.
Then add Marsala and combine well.
Place the bowl over a saucepan of just-simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water) and whisk until the mixture has doubled in size and holds a trail when the beaters are dragged through. Remove from heat and allow cooling completely.
Beat butter until creamy or, if using mascarpone, beat very quickly, so it does not split and turn into butter.
Add ¼ cup of the zabaglione to the butter or mascarpone and combine well.
Add the remaining zabaglione, combine well and divide into 3 parts. To one part, add the chocolate, to another, the coffee, and leave the third plain.

How to make a Sacripantina cake

Trim the top and base from sponge cake and reserve the trimmings.
Cut the sponge horizontally into three layers.
In a bowl, combine the liqueurs and brandy and dilute with water, so it will not be overpowering.
Place a layer of sponge cake on a serving plate.
Brush with the liqueur mixture and spoon over the coffee zabaglione.
Repeat with another layer of cake, liqueur mixture and chocolate zabaglione.
Top with the final layer of cake, brush with the liqueur mixture and cover the entire cake with the plain zabaglione.
Refrigerate overnight, so the flavours will be fully absorbed.
Crumble over sponge trimmings and dust with icing sugar to serve.
(Photo from Vogue Australia: "Cucina Luciana" by Sophia Young, recipes Luciana Sampogna, photography Mark Roper, styling David Morgan)

Go to our Italian cooking course

28 January 2024
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