Author Notes: Much of the wonder of this dessert may lie in its semihomemade ease—you’re doing little more than bashing up store-bought meringues and folding them into whipped cream. But this gelato cake comes from quite literary roots, reminding us that we should be open to finding cooking inspiration in all sorts of places: dusty books at estate sales, our elders’ recipe boxes, or the yellowed clippings that flutter out of an old birthday card. In this case, it did help that Nigella Lawson could read Italian.
Lawson is a self-proclaimed lover of languages (you can sense this as you read her lyrical recipe writing and occasional invented words). She found the basic notion of this recipe in an Italian book from 1986 by chef and culinary philosopher Gioacchino Scognamiglio. It called for an obscure liqueur, which she tracked down and studied; her version is modified for boozes we can more easily find. The frozen cake is downy, like a more weightless icebox cake, with gentle crackles of meringue and chocolate that melt away quickly on your tongue. Recipe adapted slightly from Genius Desserts (Ten Speed Press, September 2018). —Genius Recipes
Serves: 6 to 8
Prep time: 8 hrs 15 min
Cook time: 10 min
cups (295g) heavy cream
ounce (30g) bittersweet chocolate (62% cacao or higher)
tablespoon coffee liqueur or rum, or better yet, a mix of the two
ounces (110g) crumbled store-bought or homemade meringue cookies (about 2 cups)
cup (235g) heavy cream
ounces (125g) dark chocolate (62% cacao or higher), finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
tablespoons coffee liqueur or rum, or better yet, a mix of the two
- To make the gelato cake, line a 9 by 5-inch (23 by 13cm) loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch (7.5cm) overhang on the long sides so the plastic can cover the cake when freezing.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a handheld mixer in a large bowl, whip the cream until thick but still soft. Very finely chop the chocolate into splinters and fold them into the cream, followed by the liqueur and crumbled meringues.
- Scrape the mixture into the loaf pan, packing it down as you go, and smooth the top. Pull the plastic wrap up and over to seal the top, then wrap more plastic wrap around the whole pan. Freeze until solid, at least 8 hours or overnight.
- To make the chocolate sauce, pour the cream into a saucepan and add the chocolate. Gently heat over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until the chocolate is almost all melted. Remove from the heat. (If the mixture gets too hot, the chocolate will seize, but it will continue melting nicely in the warm cream even off the heat.)
- Add the liqueur, still off the heat, and whisk again until smooth. Pour the sauce into a pitcher, whisking occasionally, until it cools to just warm.
- To serve, unwrap the outer layer of plastic wrap, then uncover the top, lift up the overhanging ends of the plastic, and flip the frozen cake onto a cutting board or platter, peeling away and discarding the rest of the plastic. Pour some of the chocolate sauce over the top and cut into thick slabs. Serve immediately with the rest of the chocolate sauce on the side. Rewrap up any leftovers to freeze airtight.
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