Zuppa Inglese Mama’s Italian Cream Rum Dessert Cake


Zuppa Inglese is an Italian cream rum cake or dessert that requires no baking. It is wonderfully rich, easy and delicious! And the presentation, in a trifle bowl, is really quite lovely and impressive! My Mama prepared it for special occasions & I have adapted it for modern tastes. I am going against the grain and using “boxed” pudding for ease of preparation. I find that they are a very nice alternative to the “made from scratch” pudding when one is in a time crunch.

*For a slightly different taste use almond sponge cookies and almond flavoring in place of rum.”

OK, some of you are getting to know me by now and know I have to include a bit of history and its meaning. Scroll down for the recipe if you wish to bypass the history lesson 🙂

Zuppa Inglese is a classic Italian dessert, with a very unusual name. The name Zuppa Inglese translates to “English Soup,” which is a little confusing since the dessert is more cake and cream than any type of soup. There are a few explanations for how the dessert came by its name.

The most common given is that English Trifle inspired Zuppa Inglese, which was familiar to Italians because there were so many British residents of Italy. The two desserts have many things in common. Cake or ladyfingers in both are often soaked in alcohol. With Zuppa Inglese, a variety of liqueurs may be used, but in Trifle, the most commonly used is actually sherry. This origin story would place the invention of Zuppa Inglese firmly in the 19th century. Alternately, a Neapolitan fan of Lord Nelson created it in the late 18th century

Another story has more to do with the Italian language that it has to do with culinary invention. “Soup” may be a complete mistranslation of the Italian verb inzuppare, according to The Dictionary of Italian Food penned by John Mariani. The verb may mean to soak up or sop up, and it is true that the cake in the dessert does soak up the alcohol. Mariana contends that somewhere along the line, the entire title was misunderstood, leading to the peculiar name of English soup. This account still considers Trifle as the potential inspiration for the dish. Here’s my version!

Original recipe makes 1 – 9×13 inch pan or glass trifle bowl


  • 1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries
  • 2 ounces or 1 shot of rum
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 4 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies or 2 packages of either almond sponge cookies or anisette toasts
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 container of strawberries and berries of choice for decoration
  • 2 ripe bananas sliced 1/4” thick
  • 1 Sprig of mint (optional)


  1. In a small bowl, drain cherry juice and add rum; set aside. Prepare vanilla and chocolate puddings in separate bowls, according to package directions. Allow to set up 5 minutes.
  2. In a 9×13 inch baking dish or trifle bowl, place a layer of cookies on the bottom, cut a few of the cookies in order to create a tight fit, if needed.
  3. Sprinkle cookie layer with 1/3 of the cherry juice mixture and spoon vanilla pudding over the cookies, spreading to the edge of the pan or bowl.
  4. Top with sliced fresh strawberries. Repeat steps with cookies, cherry juice then chocolate pudding, top with a layer of bananas. Make final layer with cookies and remaining juice.
  5. In a medium bowl, whip cream and sugar together until soft peaks form. Top dessert with whipped cream, and garnish with whole cherries and additional berries if desired. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more before serving.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Osyth says:

    I’m often to be found trifling with a trifle …


  2. I enjoy reading the history & meaning behind your recipes! I’ve never made a trifle but will enjoy making this one!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s