Diplomatico is a no-bake dessert, which makes it vanlife-friendly, but it is not a simple recipe. You’ll need an electric mixer and a bit of focus to pull this off.
It may blow your mind that a mediocre walmart pound cake can be dressed up with coffee, rum, whipped cream, and chocolate mousse in such a way that it becomes a pastry worthy of high-praise, but the proof is in the pudding, if you will. When you pull this out of your tiny van fridge you will certainly turn some heads.
The center of the cake is chocolate mousse. Protecting the mousse is a layer of pound cake soaked with rum and coffee. After setting in the fridge, the outside is coated with whipped cream and decorated with nuts and fresh fruits. And the transformation is complete.
Like most of my favorite desserts, the diplomatico can be made days ahead and stored in the fridge, only requiring a bit of sprucing up before serving, so you can spend your evening focusing on the rest of the meal.
I first heard about this dessert in the excellent cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. It is an excellent cookbook, and one that will open your mind with regard to Italian cuisine. There are a handful of recipes out there for this dessert, and this is my adaptation based on my personal preferences.
If you hate baking but are not afraid of a slightly complex recipe, here is your new showstopper dessert.
1 prebaked pound cake (12-16 oz), sliced to ¼-½”
Cheesecloth or plastic wrap
1 cup espresso
¼ cup gold rum
¼ cup water
1 tbsp sugar
¾ cup semisweet chocolate
1 tsp sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
Make the soak by dissolving 1 tbsp sugar into 1 cup espresso and adding ¼ cup rum and ¼ cup water.
Slice the pound cake into ¼” to ½” thick slices, making them as square as possible.
Line a loaf pan or square-sided glass tupperware with plastic wrap or moistened cheesecloth.
Quickly dip both sides of a piece of pound cake in your coffee and rum, and use it to line the outside of your dish, starting with the bottom. You want to dip the pound cake quickly so that it is soaked with the coffee mixture, but not so drenched as to become soggy and fall apart. Continue this process until the bottom and sides are all lined. Pack any cracks between pieces with the scraps, you want complete coverage.
Now to make the filling. Divide the eggs, with the yolks in one mixing bowl and the whites in another. Add 1 tsp sugar to the yolks and beat until pale yellow, around 1 minute.
In a small pan over low heat, melt the chocolate. Keep an eye on it, stirring often, and remove it from heat as soon as it is melted. Add this to the yolks a bit at a time and beat it together until uniform.
Rinse your beater well to remove any fat, and then beat your egg whites. You want to beat them until they hold stiff peaks, which should take around 4 to 5 minutes with an electric mixer (we use this immersion blender set).
Add a spoonful of the egg whites to yolks and mix well to soften the mixture slightly. Then add the yolk mixture to the whites, folding them together gently.
Pour this mixture into the pan, and lay another layer of soaked pound cake on top of the mousse.
Cover the pan and refrigerate at least overnight. This can also be done days in advance.
To serve, frost with whipped cream made from 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp sugar, and ¼ tsp vanilla extract, and garnish with nuts and fresh berries.
Slice and enjoy!