Dining with Dietrich


Marlene Dietrich’s Zabaglione

“Mix three yolks of eggs with three tablespoons of sugar until the mixture is creamy and whitish. Then add a bit more than half a cup of Marsala wine. Mix. In a double boiler beat the mixture with an eggbeater till it rises. Do not boil the mixture. Use a large enough pot so that it can rise almost to double the amount. If you are courageous you can forget about the double boiler and do it on a direct low flame.

Serve it in wide-topped glasses while it is warm.”

“Darkness gathers swiftly in November…” and that’s when I like to cook. I come from a long line of gals with mad kitchen skills — much better than mine — however, that doesn’t stop me from digging into their notes and cookbooks and rustling up something to entertain, enchant, etc., after all, ’tis the season.

When whipping up a delicious Zabaglione, it works best in copper (for some reason the reaction of the eggs with the metal creates the most volume, but stainless steel is fine). Here are a couple of updates, based on Ms. Dietrich’s (and whatever you do, never make the dessert directly on a low flame, you’ll end up with sweet-soused scrambled eggs).

The basic ratio for Zabaglione (or Sabayon) is for each egg yolk add a tablespoon of sugar, more or less. The variations come in the flavors, Cointreau, or Marsala and vanilla, or…

Zabaglione with whipped cream, topped with raspberries, a Christmas favorite so I’m going to pump up the recipe so it serves 10.

One dozen (12) egg yolks, one cup sugar, 1/4 cup Cointreau, one cup heavy cream, raspberries to garnish.

Beat the egg yolks, then add the sugar slowly, beating all the while. Add the Cointreau.

Place the mixture in the top of a double boiler and whisk vigorously while the custard thickens and increases in volume. Your arm is going to get damn tired, but it’s kind of fun. If this doesn’t appeal use a hand mixer, when you raise the beaters and they leave ribbons in the custard it’s done. Keep your eye on it, the mixture will foam a little, and don’t forget to be quick, for curdled custard is most unpleasant.

Take the top of the double boiler (or your stainless steel or copper bowl) and rest it in a bath of ice. Whisk until cool. (You can refrigerate the mixture until needed, up to 12 hours.)

Beat the heavy cream in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled Zabaglione. Spoon into champagne coupes and top with raspberries and a sprinkling of orange zest.


Classic Zabaglione

6 egg yolks, 6 tablespoons sugar, 2/3 cup Marsala, the seeds from one scraped vanilla pod.

Same idea as the recipes above. Beat the egg yolks, add the sugar beating continuously, add the Marsala and the vanilla.

Place the mixture on the top of a double boiler, whisk until almost doubled in volume.

Spoon warm into something pretty, champagne coupes, or your favorite dessert bowls, and serve immediately.

For more luscious desserts (and some old Hollywood whimsy) click here: Baking with Marlene Dietrich.


  1. Pingback: Dining with Dietrich | Carleigh-Hepburn

  2. PJR

    There is something undeniably glamorous and edgy about zabaglione – my mother made a great one, too. Like everyone else, I thank you for the sensual and nostalgic delights xxx

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