Sponge Cake with Custard and Liqueur (Zuppa inglese)

Most connoissuers of Italian food know that the name of this popular dessert means "English soup," which it was supposedly given for its resemblance to British trifle. However, few know that one of the ingredients, alchermes, a bright red, herb-and-spice-flavored liqueur invented by Florentine monks, derives its name from the Arabic qirmiz, which is also the source of the English word crimson. The composition of zuppa inglese may vary, the only constants being cake, custard, and alcohol, preferably some of it red. To save time and labor, use a store-bought sponge cake.
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