Part ice cream, part cake, part gingerbread with a healthy dose of chocolate to tie it all together – this Christmas dessert is more than the sum of its parts. Aside from being pretty much all my favourite things, it’s cold, light and perfect for the hot Australian summer Christmas. It’s make ahead, relieving a lot of stress, come Christmas day. And then there’s the surprise when it looks like you’ve made a traditional pudding, but inside that dark outer chocolate layer is a rich gingerbread ice cream. Sometimes I add candied gingerbread pieces throughout, other times I fancy it up with swirls of salted caramel. The idea came from a traditional Italian dessert called a zucotto, something I became quite addicted to when I first discovered it.
I’ve made a few zucotto (zucotti?) over the years, and meant to share this recipe many times but photographing ice cream desserts is not a task that can be attempted half-heartedly. Anyway, here it is – the zucotto in all its glory – add a dash of Cointreau or rum to the cake layer, blend up gingerbread and mix it through the ice cream filling – this is really less of a recipe and more of a blank canvas for your favourite Christmas/summer flavours. The only recipe part is the cake, which you can actually thank the fabulous Ree Drummond for, the pioneer woman that she is.
So here you go – may your Christmas table be filled with family and friends, love and laughter and memories that make you smile for years to come. See you in the new year!
Quick step-by-step for assembly
Line a pudding bowl with a double layer of cling wrap – don’t forget this bit or it’ll be stupendously difficult to remove the pudding from its mould. Cut a circle of cake to go into the bottom of the pudding mould and then line the sides with cake – make sure to overhang the top rim of the pudding mould. You can see mine isn’t particularly neat, it all gets covered with a layer of cocoa powder afterwards anyway. Freeze any leftover cake in case you want to patch up the exterior (if you’re a perfectionist, or just nitpicky like I am.)
Add the ice cream – this is a good time to add anything extra you want, swirls of salted caramel or chopped up pieces of candied ginger. Just don’t add anything hard or you could shock some guests – they might not be expecting large pieces or the traditional Christmas favours in a frozen dessert.
Trim the edges and cover with cling wrap and layer of tinfoil. Freeze for at least 24 hours or a few weeks even.
Make the ganache just before you’re ready to serve. Unmould the zucotto, dust with a generous dose of cocoa powder to cover any visible joins. Pipe or drip some ganache on and top with a Christmas decoration.
Zucotto: A Christmas ice cream cake
for the cake
- 250 g flour or 2 cups
- 440 g sugar or 2 cups
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 225 g butter
- 4 tbsp cocoa
- 250 ml water or 1 cup
- 125 ml buttermilk or ½ cup
- 2 whole eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tsp bicarb/baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
for the filling
- 1 litre gingerbread, christmas pudding or honey ice cream
- 2 tbsp cocoa for sifting over the zucotto
- 35 g dark chocolate
- 35 g cream
to make the cake
- Line two sheet pans (mine were 9" x 13") with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
- Combine butter, cocoa and water in a small saucepan and heat until just bubbling. Turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.
- In a measuring jug, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into a lined sheet cake pan and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.
- (Depending on the dimensions of your pudding mould, you'll most probably have too much cake - Keep the extra cake to patch any gaps in the exterior during assembly.)
- Remove the tub of ice cream from the fridge so that it softens up a bit.
- Line a 1.5 litre pudding bowl with double thickness cling wrap.
- Line the base of a pudding bowl with a circle of cake, then line the sides - try to pack it in as tight as possible, trying to minimise gaps. Don't stress too much though, leftover cake can be used to fill in the gaps later, plus it will be topped with a layer of cocoa.
- Fill with ice cream, then cover with cling wrap and a layer of foil. Freeze at least overnight, but this zucotto will keep well in the freezer for over a month!
- When ready to eat, make ganache by microwaving chocolate and cream in a small bowl and mixing. Unmould the zucotto and dust with cocoa powder, then drizzle or pipe the chocolate ganache on top. Top with a Christmas decoration if you feel so inclined.