Originating from the region of Campania, zeppole are small dessert cakes always made on March 19th to celebrate the feast day of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph). Over time, this day has become a celebration of fathers (an Italian version of Father's Day) and now these delicious, traditional cakes are baked all over Italy on this day.

Originally they were always fried but, in these more modern, health conscious times they are now baked as well. Certainly in the south of Italy, both versions are available, with the baked version being lighter and having a more delicate taste, to say nothing of being better for you.

The recipe is for four zeppole as they are usually cooked in the home and just eaten by the family.

Ingedients: For the Choux Pastry

Makes 4

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 45g butter (diced)
  • 250ml water
  • 150g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredients: For the Creme Patissiere

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 20g cornflour
  • Half a vanilla pod
  • 70g sugar
  • 250ml full fat milk

Ingredients: To decorate

  • 4 amarena cherries in syrup
  • A little icing sugar

Method: To make the Choux Pastry

  1. Place the water and butter into a pan over a moderate heat and let the butter melt slowly.
  2. Bring to the boil and add the flour all at once, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the mixture has thickened, continue to cook over a low heat until it leaves the side of the saucepan.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool slightly.
  5. Whisk the eggs and then little by little add them into the flour mix, stirring with a wooden spoon. When you have finished mixing in the eggs, add a pinch of salt. You should end up with thick, smooth mixture.
  6. Heat the oven to 200 deg C.
  7. Put the pastry mix into a piping bag with a 1.2cm star nozzle
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  9. Make four double circles of roughly 10cm in diameter. To do this you will have to make two turns with the piping bag so that each zeppole ends up with two circles, one top of the other - it is easier than it sounds.
  10. Bake the four zeppole for roughly 20 to 25 minutes until they are browned. Now open the oven door slightly and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes to enable them to dry out.
  11. Let them cool completely while you make the Creme Patissiere for the centre.

Method: To make the Creme Patissiere

  1. Slit the half vanilla pod lengthways and extract the seeds. The pod will be used to flavour the milk and the seeds will be added to the egg and sugar mixture.
  2. Heat milk, along with the vanilla pod, in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Bring to the boil and then take it off the heat
  4. Working quickly, lightly beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, add the vanilla seeds and stir in the sugar. Then add the cornflour and beat well
  5. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and add a ladle full of the milk at a time to the egg mixture, whisking all the time until all the milk is incorporated.
  6. Return to the pan and place over a low heat and stir constantly until it has thickened.
  7. Transfer the cream to a bowl, cover with cling film and let it cool completely.
  8. Once the cream is cold, place it in a piping bag with a smooth nozzle
  9. Pipe the cream into the zeppole by puncturing a small hole into the centre with the nozzle and then squeazing in a little cream. Now fill the centre with cream so that it rises up above the edge of the pastry.
  10. Place one amarena cherry, along with a little drizzle of syrup, in the middle of each zeppole.
  11. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar.