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May 25

The month of Mary: A Marian Month

Saint of the day:

Saint Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi 

was an Italian Carmelite nun and mystic.

Patron Saint of against bodily ills; against sexual temptation; against sickness; sick people; Naples, Italy (co-patron)

The Story of Saint Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi

Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the “ecstatic saint.”

Catherine de’ Pazzi was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for her to have married into wealth and enjoyed comfort, but Catherine chose to follow her own path. At 9, she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10, and made a vow of virginity one month later. At 16, Catherine entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there.

Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near, so her superiors let her make her profession of vows in a private ceremony from a cot in the chapel. Immediately after, Mary Magdalene fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths.

As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, Admonitions, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious.

The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, Mary Magdalene appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people.

It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi died in 1607 at age 41, and was canonized in 1669. Her liturgical feast is celebrated on May 25.





Monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, Careggi, Florence, Italy

Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi

Via dei Massoni, 26, 50139 Firenze FI, Italy

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Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi

Borgo Pinti, 58, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy

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Zuccotto is a famous Italian dessert believed to have originated in Florence. It is assembled by lining up softened ladyfingers or a sponge cake around the mold to create the frame of the cake, while the center is filled with a delicious, creamy filling.


Finally, the cake is turned upside down before serving. It is believed that the unusual appearance of this dessert was designed to resemble the famous dome of the Florence Cathedral. The recipe is an ancient Italian creation, dating back to the 16th century, and it is believed that the famous Bernardo Buountalenti, the man who invented gelato, actually created the first zuccotto.


The original zuccotto filling was prepared with chocolate syrup that was layered between the mixture of dried fruits and nuts. However, the original zuccotto was reinvented in the 20th century, and it was adapted to fit the current confectionery trends.

Today, zuccotto fillings are usually made with ice cream, whipped cream, or ricotta. The mixtures are highly variable and can include numerous flavors such as almond, vanilla, or citrus, and can be modified with the addition of nuts, fruits, brandy, or chocolate chips.

Zuccotto Ice Cream Cake


  • 1 layer of Victoria sponge baked in a 9" tin (or a pound cake cut into 1/2" slices)

  • 2 oz (60 ml) plus 1 Tbsp your choice of  liqueur
    (but Grand Marnier or Cointreau is necessary for the custard part of the recipe)

  • 4 oz (113 g) semisweet (good quality) chocolate, broken into pieces

  • 2 ounces (57 g) grated dark chocolate 

  • 18 oz (530 ml) heavy/whipping cream (10 oz for the filling and 8 oz to decorate)

  • 4 tsp (divided into 2 parts) instant espresso-coffee powder 

  • 1  recipe of Italian pastry cream (below)

  • more grated chocolate or chocolate curls for decoration

Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera) slightly adapted from Il Cucchiaio D'Argento

  • 4 egg yolks (organic)

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) sugar

  • 2 Tbsp (30g) flour

  • 500 ml (17 oz) milk

  • 1 tsp vanilla


1. Prepare the Bowl and Line with Cake

  1. Line a 2 1/2 quart bowl with plastic wrap. Have it much larger than you need to cover the top later.

  2. Cut the sponge cake in half. 

  3. Place one slice in the bottom of the bowl. If you're using a loaf cake, cut slices and then triangles and fill the bowl like a jigsaw puzzle to cover every spot, so that the entire bowl is covered.

  4. Slice a few pieces of the other half of the cake into strips.

  5. Use the strips to line around the cake in the bowl. This only takes a few minutes, and its very easy!

  6. Sprinkle the cake with your choice of liqueur. I used Kahlua this time.

2. Make the Pastry Cream

  1. In a medium sized pot (off the heat), stir the egg yolks and sugar together briskly with a wooden spoon. 

  2. Add the flour a little at a time and incorporate into the mixture.

  3. Heat the milk to boiling and add the vanilla. Begin adding the hot milk to the mixture a little at a time, mixing well in between additions. Do not add too much at once or the eggs may curdle.

  4. Continue adding the hot milk and stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.

  5. Once all the milk has been added, put the pot onto medium heat and continue to stir.

  6. When the mixture comes to a boil, let it cook for 3 or 4 minutes then remove from the heat. Keep stirring as it cools so that it doesn't form a skin.

3. Melt the Chocolate.

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over some hot water.

  2. Set aside.

4.Make the Zuccotto Filling

  1. In a medium sized bowl, beat 10 oz (300 ml) heavy whipping cream with the instant coffee powder until stiff peaks form; set aside.

  2. To the cooled pastry cream, add 1 Tbsp of Grand Marnier, the 2 oz (57 g) of grated chocolate and the whipped coffee cream. Fold mixture until completely combined.

  3. Spread 2/3 of the mixture into the cake-lined bowl almost reaching the top, but not completely. Leave a hollow in the middle and don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, it will be fine in the end.

5. Fill the Zuccotto

  1. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining cream.

  2. Mix well until the color is uniform, then fill the center of the zuccotto.

6. Seal the Zuccotto and Chill.

  1. Take pieces of the remaining cake and close up the bottom of the zuccotto. 

  2. Sprinkle with more of your chosen liqueur, then seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but I like to leave it overnight.

7. Decorate the Zuccotto

  1. Beat the remaining 8 oz of heavy whipping cream, with the other 2 teaspoons of coffee powder and 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar until stiff peaks form.

  2. When ready to decorate, remove top plastic wrap and place a FLAT (must be completely flat!) plate or cake stand on top of the zuccotto and invert. Remove the bowl.

  3. Ta dah! This is my favorite part! Have cracks? Doesn't matter, it's still going to turn out perfectly.

  4. Spread the coffee-flavored whipped cream all over the zuccotto.

  5. Make swirls or peaks in the cream, whichever way you like, but it doesn't have to be fancy.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, curls or more grated chocolate.

  6. It's best to refrigerate the cake for an hour or so. However,  you can serve it immediately if you need to.

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