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Pandoro Zuppa Inglese and Alkermes

Pandoro Zuppa Inglese And Alkermes

Pandoro is a staple in Italian households at holiday time, along with its cousin, Panettone. Unlike panettone, pandoro has no raisins or candied fruits, and is typically served with a dusting of powdered sugar.

But with all the cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream eaten in our household in the last week, there is still plenty of Pandoro to be eaten.
If you’re like me and have leftover pandoro, here’s a way to use it up – a zuppa inglese – a classic Italian dessert whose name translates to “English soup,” although it’s not at all a soup, but more of an English trifle. The words “pan d’oro” mean golden bread in Italian, and it’s easy to see why once you slice into the egg-rich confection.
Zuppa Inglese is typically made with sponge cake and layers of pastry cream. The cake is usually sprinkled with Alkermes, an aromatic red liqueur that’s used in Italian desserts and as a digestivo.
Recipes for Alkermes date back to the Renaissance, and generally contain a variety of spices including cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, along with rose water and other ingredients. Its scarlet red color is derived from a small parasitic insect called kermes, or cochineal. These are parasitic insects growing on paddles of prickly pear cactus in Mexico and Central and South America. They look like a white fungus on the prickly pear paddle, but when when scraped off, give off a brilliant red color. On a trip to Peru earlier this year, I saw the insects first hand, and observed Incan women dying fabric using coloring made from the insects after they were dried and ground.
Here in the U.S., it’s nearly impossible to find alkermes (sometimes spelled alchermes) but the last time I was in Florence, I brought some back from the Santa Maria Novella Farmacia, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, dating back to 1221, and well worth a visit.
The farmacia has expanded its product line to include perfumes, soaps and other items, but still makes alkermes, using the same recipe since 1743.
The company now has branches all around the world, including one in New York City, but alas, alkermes can’t be bought there.
If you can’t get to Florence, Italy, you can always try making your own alkermes. Francine Segan has a recipe in her book “Dolci,” (using red food coloring, not cochineal insects). Email me if you’d like that recipe. Or use a combination of kirsch and the liquid from maraschino cherries. It won’t taste the same, but it’s a pleasant substitute and it will be the right color.
Anyhow, to assemble the zuppa inglese, make some chocolate pastry cream and some vanilla pastry cream. I “cheated” and used a box of instant chocolate pudding, to which I added some rum, and a box of instant vanilla pudding, to which I added some whipped cream.
Place the chocolate pudding on the bottom of large glass bowl, followed by a layer of the pandoro (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits.) Sprinkle the pandoro with the alkermes, then cover with  the vanilla pudding/whipped cream mixture, followed by another layer of pandoro and more alkermes.
Whip some heavy cream, spread it over the layers and top with sprinkles. Grab a spoon and dig in.


For more recipes using pandoro, click here for a Pandoro “Christmas tree”,
 here for a zuppa inglese “alla Napoletana,”
and here for a fruity zuccotto.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
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Pandoro Zuppa Inglese with Alkermes
1 large Pandoro cake (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1/4 cup dark rum
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
alkermes (I diluted it slightly with a simple sugar syrup made by boiling some sugar with water)
Mix the packaged instant pudding according to directions on the box (or make pastry cream from scratch.) Add the rum to the chocolate pudding. Whip the 1/2 pint of cream with the sugar, and fold 1 cup of the whipped cream to the vanilla pudding. Save the rest for the top.
Slice the pandoro cake. Place the chocolate pudding on the bottom of a large glass bowl and cover with slices of the pandoro (or sponge cake or savoiardi biscuits.) Sprinkle alkermes on top, then cover with the vanilla pudding. Place more slices of pandoro on top of the vanilla pudding and sprinkle with more alkermes.
Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and decorate with colored sprinkles.
This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Well, that was highly educational for me. I followed your trip to Peru (I was there a good thirty years ago). This reminds me of an English trifle, but your version is far more intriguing. It looks creamy and delicious! We plan to return to Bavaria in 2018, and part of our trip will be to spend time in Northern Italy. I can't wait! Happy New Year!

  2. The Zappa inglese looks delicious. I use alchermes to make my peach cookies. It adds such a realistic color. Auguri per il Nuovo Anno. Love all your recipes.

  3. Would you please send me the recipe on how to make the faux alchermes? I love trying new flavors and desserts — will have to wait until the family is gathered, though. I've made pandoro from scratch before and this year time got away from me. Will start early next year. Auguri per un felice anno nuovo. Abbracci!

  4. Ideal even after the holiday season is over, as you said the pandora and panettone does seem to disappear. You reminded me that I am almost finished with my bottle of Alkermes from SMN…time to restock. Buon Anno Linda, all the best in 2017.

  5. My family LOVES zuppa inglese and as every Italian family has — it's own special recipe. I must try this recipe since you always share such authentic, classic and delicious recipes, Linda.
    Happiest of New Year's in 2017 to you and your family!

  6. Hi Linda – happy 2017!
    Great post, loved learning about alkermes…and such a neat photo of the old farmacia.
    Wishing you a wonderful new year!
    Lori Lynn

  7. Well, I don't have Alkermes or a source. But I do have an unopened box of pandora bread… Must do something with it. Soon. Looks like a plan. Happy 2017 to you and yours. Hope you have a grand year.

  8. I've had Zuppa Inglese in Italy and remember it to be a delightful dessert. I even had a Zuppa Inglese flavored gelato! I never knew thered color/flavor came from dried insects. How interesting that man found that attribute about them centuries ago!

  9. What a lovely Zuppa Inglese Linda! I wonder why alchermes can't be purchased in the States. I remember going to a cochinea 'nursery' in Oaxaca, Mexico on a textiles study tour. The red color from them is SO vivid! I'm sure you know that the term "Red Coats" for the British resulted from their discovery of how the cochinea were cultivated and used since there were no such vivid red dyes in Europe at the time. Great post and recipe Linda! Happy 2017!

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