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Zuccotto Alla Ricotta

This Italian sweet uses pan di Spagna as its base. I've wondered if the name really should be pan di Spagna (literally 'Spanish bread') or whether it should actually be pan di spugna ('sponge bread'). Whatever its name, it was delicious. I just made this for a birthday party and there was not a crumb left!

Pan di Spagna
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 C cornstarch

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the egg yolks, half the sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until pale yellow and well-aerated, about 2 minutes. In another bowl, whip the egg whites and salt until opaque. Add the remaining sugar in a steady stream and whip until the whites are a firm, dull meringue. Use a rubber spatual to fold the yolks into the whites. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the batter and fold it in. Scrape batter into a buttered pan. Bake for 40 minutes until well-risen and firm to the touch. Immediately run a small knife around the pan to loosen the cake. Unmold the layer onto a rack and cool. Once cool, cut out a disk the size of the top of your bowl. Slice the remaining pieces in half and line a stainless steel bowl with them. Sprinkle the cake with run.

Filling
2 - 15 oz fresh ricotta
2 C powdered sugar
6 T white rum
2 T anise seeds
2 envelope gelatin
chopped bittersweet chocolate
Whip the ricotta and powdered sugar together until smooth. Combine the rum and anise seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Allow to soak until softened - about 5 minutes - then place over a pan of simmering water, stirring till melted. Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the ricotta mixture. Stir in the chocolate bits. Pour the filling into the prepared mold and close it with the reserved disk of cake. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours. Unmold the cake. Finish the cake with a layer of whipped cream and more bits of chocolate.

A traditional Zuccotto Alla Ricotta has pistachios in the filling and is finished with chopped pistachios on the outside. But I needed a certain look for this cake.

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