A zeppola (plural zeppole, in southern dialects zeppoli) or St. Joseph's Day cake, also called sfinge and in Rome Bignè di S. Giuseppe is a pastry typical of Roman, Neapolitan and generally peninsular Italian cuisine and are also served in Sicily … see full wiki
March 19th is St. Joseph's Day. St. Joseph is the "adoptive" father of Jesus and the husband of the Virgin Mary. He is the Patron Saint of carpenters, house buyers and sellers, fathers, confectioners, wheelwrights, working people and numerous countries and cities including Austria, Canada andMexico as well as the cities of Sicily, Turin and Florence in Italy. History tells us that the Italian people began celebrating St. Joseph's Day when the city of Sicily was struck with a severe drought and famine during the Middle Ages. Sicilians prayed to their patron saint Joseph to intercede. When the rains finally came and the crops came back to life the people of Italy were extremely grateful that their prayers had finally been answered. Ever since that time Italian people have celebrated the feast of St. Joseph.
In Italian neighborhoods and enclaves all across America St. Joseph's Day has become synonymous with a lucious Italian pastry called zeppole. Around here most bakeries only make zeppole for 2 or 3 weeks a year to coincide with the celebration of St. Joseph's Day. They are a real treat! So just what is a zeppole? Anecdotes and articles describe these pastries as anything from fried dough to cream puffs. Here in Rhode Island the general consensus seems to be that zeppole are baked rings of pâte à choux—the same dough used to make éclairs—filled with custard-like pastry cream flavored with rum or vanilla. These pastries are typically garnished with powdered sugar and a maraschino cherry. Magnifico! Depending on the bakery zeppole may either be fried or baked. Some bakeries make both. Personally, I much prefer the baked variety. Making zeppole is a very labor intensive operation so many bakeries have to bring in extra help just to keep up with the demand. Here in Rhode Island we have a large Italian population so many bakeries sell zeppole just as fast as they can make them!
So if you live anywhere near an Italian neighborhood or bakery I urge you to give zeppole a try if you see them. You will not be disappointed! Or if you are so inclined you can try making some at home. There are lots of tempting zeppole recipes available online. Whether you pick some up at a neighborhood bakery or make them yourself you will discover that zeppole are a taste sensation. Very highly recommended!