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Truman Capote's Favorite Italian Pudding

Truman Capote's Favorite Italian Pudding

Everyone has a sweet tooth, but nothing like this pudding has the power to thrill a writer like Truman Capote

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Truman Capote always had a personal cook, but in Sicily he began to explore the kitchen himself – “an unmanly activity, I suppose, but very relaxing and the reward is delicious,” he wrote after a day making fruit preserves. Plus, he noted, storing jam was great way to “do something with these old gin and wine bottles,” a tip destined for the Pinterest boards of boozehounds everywhere.

What began as a way to pass the time became a food obsession, with a particular focus on sweets. After graduating from humble Toll House cookies to fancy chocolate confections, Capote ultimately took on the amateur cook’s triathlon: for Christmas in 1951, he presented Dunphy with a turkey, chestnut stuffing, and a multilayer orange almond cake. Despite his new culinary chops, though, Capote’s favorite treat was something he didn’t make. In 1962, on a trip to England, he and his friend Cecil Beaton lunched with the Queen Mother. But the royal company didn’t impress Capote – the dessert did. It was “the best cake I’ve ever tasted – a sort of chocolate cream stuffed with fresh raspberries,” he wrote. He wasn’t shy about expressing his enthusiasm, either; years later, Beaton remembered his friend cheering with joy when it was served. Because when a good dessert is involved, who can be bothered with a stiff upper lip?

But what was it, exactly? The editors of Capote’s letters call the cake a “summer pudding,” but the typical English version doesn’t have the chocolate or cream that Capote praises. Italian pudding, though, hits his description on all counts: creamy chocolate mascarpone and macerated raspberries, with layers of coffee- and rum-soaked ladyfingers. It’s tiramisu with a twist – and after making it, I can say with authority that Capote had reason to jump for joy.

Here is the recipe adapted from

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces 3 cups raspberries, divided 2 tablespoons powdered sugar 4 tablespoons rum, divided 4 eggs, separated, plus one additional egg white [Using uncooked eggs can pose a health risk, so use only grade A or pasteurized eggs in your pudding.] 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 cup mascarpone cheese 2 cups prepared instant espresso 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 14 ladyfinger cookies, with rounded edges trimmed to fit lengthwise in a 5×10 loaf pan 1. 

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine half the raspberries, the powdered sugar, and 2 tablespoons rum. Stir until raspberries are coated, and set aside.

With an electric mixer on high speed in a large bowl, beat egg yolks and granulated sugar until pale and thick. Beat in mascarpone and cooled chocolate. In a separate medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture.

In a shallow dish, mix espresso, vanilla extract, and remaining 2 tablespoons rum. Working quickly, dip ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and place in a single layer, lengthwise, in a 5×10 loaf pan. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers, then cover with mascerated raspberries, followed by the remaining mascarpone. Cover and chill 4 hours.

Garnish top of pudding with remaining raspberries and serve. Whoop with joy. Invite the queen.

Courtesy of PaperandSalt

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