Zeppole of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day Zeppole)

The Zeppole are a sweet typical of southern Italy. It is delicious “pancakes’ filled with cream and decorated with amarena cherries, traditionally eaten at the feast of St. Joseph.

In fact it is rather curious that in the middle of Lent tradition welcome the preparation of a fried sweet and yummy. One particular would seem to unravel this paradox. Legend has it that St. Joseph had a second job, to fry. By a kind of devotion to the saint, in fact, along the streets of Naples, the fryers were preparing fried zeppole to passersby. This custom has unfortunately been lost over time.

The zeppola of St. Joseph, founded in the thirteenth century and is filled with custard and decorated with black cherry syrup.

On the origin of the word zeppola has been debated a lot. Some derive from Serpula (m) which is Latin for serpent , for a serpent closed in on itself. According to others tempted to wedge, which in Naples is the piece of wood placed to correct the measured flaws in furniture. Again this was therefore a reference to St. Joseph’s profession.

The Zeppole are therefore rooted in the traditional Neapolitan cuisine. However, for some time, they are prepared and consumed in many regions especially in the south and center.

The donuts salting , were originally fried in lard, they are now stuffed with custard or chocolate. In Puglia they are most widespread in the version in the oven. Still, in Sicily, they take on a shade more “Oriental” for the dough with rice flour and cover with orange honey or powdered sugar. In some areas of the Calabria zeppola it is typical of the Christmas period. It is so stuffed with ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, anchovies or lemon according with very local recipes (it changes from town to town very often)  and potatoes as ingredients in the dough.

In Naples, as well as zeppole St. Joseph, present in all the bakeries also in “miniature” version, it is easy to come across in the primordial version of donuts: the pastacresciute , savory zeppole.

The zeppole in short, are rooted in the culinary history of Naples and southern of Italy.

And here i want to show you the recipe that I follow from years to make the Zeppole (filled with custard) or Sfingi (filled with cannoli cream):


  • 1 Cup water
  • ¼ Cup Crisco shortening
  • 1 Pinch of salt (1/4 tsp.)
  •  3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
  •  4 Eggs
  • Cannoli cream
  • Custard cream
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Amarene – Wild cherries in syrup


  • In a medium pot, boil water salt and the Crisco.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the ¾ cup of flour.  Mix with a wooden spoon continually for about 2 minutes until all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Remove the pot from the heat.  Take out the dough and let it cool on a flat surface.  Spread dough for cooling.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Take the cooled dough and put into a bowl. Add the 4 egg, mixing in one egg at a time. Beat with a hand mixer until you have a very smooth mix.
  • Heat 2 inches of oil in a pot.  Bring to 325 degrees.
  • Using a large soup spoon, place spoonful size of dough into the oil. Grease the spoon to let the dough release easier.
  • Fry 3 or 4 sfingi at a time a few minutes until golden. As the sfingi fry you will note that they continue to expand in volume.  This is expected as you want the sfingi to be somewhat hollow on the inside.
  • Let the sfingi cool off.  Gently slice open and fill with cannoli cream, dust with powdered sugar and top with an optional cherry.
  • To make Zeppole, put the mix in a pastry bag, cut squares (4″x4″) of parchment paper and with the pastry bag pipe the mix on the paper in a circle. Overlay two circles on top of one another.
  • Put the squares of paper with the piped mix in the hot oil and fry until golden.
  • Please note that as the mix fries, it will expand quite a bit.
  • Once the Zeppole are fried, slice them in half and fill them with custard cream. Decorate with Amarene.
  • You might bake them for a crispier and lighter version if you like it better.




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