St Valentine’s and an Ode to Lidia

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15 February, 2013 by shortcaked

Valentine’s day is not a pointless day invented by Hallmark and Co. to make us buy overpriced cards and crappy flowers.

Oh no.

It’s an excuse to eat desserts you think you shouldn’t.

Tuesday night at dinner (chicken and sausage etoufée, because, Mardi Gras) my family and I were discussing my baking plans for the late-week and week-end.  My points: I wanted to make something rich/chocolate/awesome for V-Day so we can all pretend we care, but I also wanted to make something transportable so when I hike south this weekend to see the Boy I’ll have something to deliver (obviously girls that bring baked goods when they come to see you are the best ever).  Solution?  Make decadent dessert for Thursday, and then cookies Friday afternoon.  Done.

After some minor scuffling with my mom over the fact that we don’t NEED that much dessert in the house, and how about I just make cookies and call it a day? I won the argument on the above-alluded-to argument.  What good is V-Day if you can’t eat something delicious in the name of a fat baby in a diaper?  The answer is ‘it isn’t very good at all’, and so I’m making three desserts this week.

I can’t even rank them in order of excitement, because I’m super jazzed about all three.  But Thursday is first chronologically, so Thursday will be first to have its day in the sunlight (because while I’m writing this it is so sunny you wouldn’t believe and I am capitalizing on it before it snows again over the weekend).  Here it is in all its glory:


Thursday’s Super Decadent Dessert is originally from Lidia Bastianich, aka my Italian goddess.  I have been watching Lidia on PBS since I can’t even remember when, with my mom sitting next to me saying “ohhh, my grandmother’s [food product du jour of the episode] was the best”.  My favorite thing about Lidia (other than the fact that she uses cheese with reckless abandon) is that her kitchen has stayed the same for all that time.  The kitchen she’s cooking in on Lidia’s Italy in America (currently running on PBS) is the exact same kitchen from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen (what I first started watching with my mom). She also birthed Joe Bastianich, whose death glares and pocket squares are a good 30% of why I watch Master Chef so religiously.

The other 70 percent is made up of Gordon, the combined efforts of Gordon and Joe hating peoples’ food, and lusting after the kitchen. Actual food makes up maybe 10% of that.

The cake itself is made up of two layers of chocolate sponge, with fruit and chocolate zabaglione in between and chocolate and more zabaglione on top.  The original recipe calls for cherry, but since we literally JUST HAD chocolate cherry cake last week (my sister’s birthday– booziest black forest ever) I opted for strawberry this time around.



Other than that the recipe was pretty straightforward.  Bake cake, make sauce, make zabaglione, assemble.  Lots of whisking, though; between the fluffed egg for the cake, the melted chocolate for the zabaglione, the whipped cream also for the zabaglione, and the actual zabaglione itself– my right arm is going to be jacked from all this whisking.

zabaglione montage

Every good cake deserves a montage.

After assembling the cake, it went into the refrigerator to take some time and cool its hot self down.


And then Thursday after dinner…..


Unhealthy-good cake is unhealthy-good

….we got to eat it!  Which was obviously the best part.  Cutting was a little tricky since the cake layers were denser than the zabaglione filling between them and the latter kept getting pushed out, but whatever.  The mess was chocolate flavored, and cleanup was not a problem.

Here’s my (slightly) simplified version of Lidia’s original recipe, which you can find here.

Chocolate Zabaglione Cake


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup Marsala or other sweet cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup berries– fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • egg yolks
  • 1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup Marsala or other sweet cooking wine
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Grease the inside of a round springform. For extra release, put a round of parchment in the bottom of the pan.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Set a larger bowl over simmering water and beat together the eggs and sugar until dissolved. Continue about 10 minutes more, until the eggs have doubled in volume. Remove from heat and fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Pour batter into your springform and bake until the sponge just springs back when pressed, about 25 minutes. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and remove pan once fully cooled. Once cooled, slice the cake into two even layers and put the bottom back in the springform.
  5. To make the syrup, combine 1/2 cup of the Marsala with the confectioner’s sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the berries and continue cooking about five minutes more, pressing slightly with a fork to break up large chunks. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To make the zabaglione filling, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and Marsala over a pot of simmering water. Continue beating until the egg yolks turn a pale yellow and the mixture drips in thick ribbons. Fold in the chocolate and let cool; follow with the heavy cream, folding until combined.
  7. Brush the bottom layer of cake with about half of the syrup and scatter the top with all of the fruit. Pour the zabaglione on top. Brush the cut side of the second layer with the remaining syrup and set on top.
  8. Let cake sit overnight before removing the springform. To serve, slice (carefully!) and top with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and a dusting of cocoa powder.

print this recipe!

How were your VDays?  Were the desserts decadent, or more like chocolate massacres?


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