A Spirited Dessert To Chase Away the Winter Blues: Zabaglione, The Cocktail

By on January 8, 2012

zabaglione served with amaretti cookies

Disregard the winter weather.  Forget about the gray skies.  Gather to yourself the finest ingredients, a little old-world craft, blended with new world magic and you’ll have yourself a dessert like no other. We Call It A Spoonable Cocktail. And its our contribution to the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap for January. Yes!

This egg yolk and spirits dessert was probably invented in the ninth century.  It’s known by several names, Sabayon in France, Zabaglione in Italy, Zabaione in certain South American Countries.  But in each case, the final result depends on beginning with the best ingredients.  Yes.  Was it ever thus?

organic brown eggs

And don’t forget to say a little prayer for the Monks who invented Cognac as a way to make their wine travel,  or the French peasant who figured out a way to preserve the delicacy of summer by plucking off elder flowers and making them into a liqueur, or the ancient Italians who reduced wine to the wonder of Marsala.  Yes.  To all these spirited forebears,  we say, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.

and as for me,  I also say a little prayer for the microwave, the food processor and the electric mixer,  modern day kitchen tools which do everything a balloon whisk and a double boiler do, only easier and better.  There I said.  Blasphemy, I know, but there you go.  It’s why Diana Butts and I won the Best Cookbook in America prize from the IACP when we invented a method for making bread that used the food processor to mix the dough, and microwave to raise it. that book (still available from Amazon, is called Bread in Half the Time.

microwave ovens do anything double boilers do, only easier.

Now ask me where our royalty is from Cuisinart who now advertises this feature of the food processor proudly.  Diana and I made a thousand loaves using our method.  The Cuisinart folks called us and said “You can’t do that.  You’ll wreck our machine.”  May I tell you,  I am still using that same food processor some 20+ years later.

Lets hear it for innovation.

And that holds true for tuning up the flavor profile of this traditional dessert.  The delicate blend of St. Germain, Hennessy, and Marsala will turn your dessert into a sumptious spoonable cocktail.  Yes!

Whipping Egg Yolks with Sugar

Breath of Spring Zabaglione

Makes 4 servings

Using only the finest spirits, the best eggs, and the finest sugar, you can create a dessert so delicate and sweet it will make you weep.

If you don’t have a microwave,  you can do this in a double boiler.  Still delicious.

organic sugar

6 large brown organic egg yolks

Few grains kosher salt

2/3 cup organic sugar

½ cup Marsala wine

¼ cup Hennessy V.S.O.P. Cognac

¼ cup St. Germain Elderflower liqueur

½ cup heavy organic cream, whipped


Whipping Cream for Topping

Combine in a large microwave bowl the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then add spirits. Whisk until four times the volume. About 5 minutes.  (OK to use electric beaters).

Microwave on high, stopping every 30 seconds to whisk briefly, until custard thickens and peaks stand on their own, about 4 minutes.

Transfer to four ice cream coupes, or balloon wine glasses. Top with whipped cream.  Dust with nutmeg and serve warm.

OR: refrigerate, covered until serving time.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”


  1. Toni from Boulder Locavore

    January 8, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Linda! I feel you get shortchanged on visitors not being linked in (know it’s been difficult) and I wanted to be sure to seek you out knowing you always prepare a wonderful dish to share! This time is no exception! We are in the dead zone of winter. Tons of wind, not much snow, dry cold temps. The ideas of ‘spring’ perked me up but thrice so in reading the recipe. What a light, happy time you’ve made! Beautiful!

    • Linda Eckhardt

      January 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      thanks Toni. I know I’m the luddite but damned if I can figure out this linkage. I did just try to go to the group using the frog symbol. maybe that worked. if you have any tips for me, I’d be grateful. best. I know its cold there. My step daughter and family live in Denver brrr.

  2. Rachel

    January 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Huh, I never would have thought to make this in the microwave! Needless tos ay, I don’t have a microwave or a double boiler (although as of last weekend I do have a stainless steel mixing bowl that will fit over a saucepan).
    You really, really made a dessert that didn’t appeal to me much into something that’s actually making me drool! I think you had me at “spoonable”!

    • Linda Eckhardt

      January 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      nobody needs spiffy equipment to cook. Do you have a stainless bowl that will fit over a sauce pan and a whisk? you’re in biz. Simply place the whisked ingredients into your home made double boiler and whisk away. Its worked for a lotta years. and spoonable yes.

  3. Shumaila

    January 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I love microwave recipes! They are always a breeze! And bread in half the time- I am sold! Love it!

  4. Kim Bee

    January 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    This is such a wonderful take on the recipe. I absolutely love the picture of the whipped cream. The egg shot is wonderful too. Lovely job and lovely photos. Glad I stopped by.

  5. Monique

    January 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Zabaglione in a microwave??? Intriguing! And now I need to look into your bread book too! Great Swap!

  6. Lana

    January 9, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    I find myself giving thanks many times, just like you do:) This is my kind of dessert – with a bonus. The only thing I would change is the brand of cognac, as I prefer Courvoisier, but it’s just a family favorite.
    I love the flavor of elderflower and I am glad that it’s making a come-back.
    You say “Luddite”, I say “techno-peasant”, but we understand one another. I cannot help, as I am usually the one who needs help, but for me, the linky things miraculously works:) All I do is copy and paste the code at the bottom of my post, but when it’s in HTML mode, not in text.

    • Linda Eckhardt

      January 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      omg. at the bottom. no wonder it hasn’t been working. i’ll move it. thanks

  7. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    January 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

    This sounds great; love the addition of the cookies.

    Re the linking; you’re on WordPress hosted version so it should be easy. Copy the first piece of html code that Christianna provides; go to your post, select HTML view and paste it after everything else at the bottom. And let me know if you need more help!

    • Linda Eckhardt

      January 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      omg. copy it on the bottom. that’s what I was doing wrong. I’ll try that and a thousand thanks

  8. Alli

    January 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I love the concept of spoonable drinks! And what a great addition to use St. Germain!