Cassata – Italian recipe (VIDEO)

The Sicilian cassata is a rich and colorful dessert: it takes some time, but the end result is a masterpiece of Italian cuisine!

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Ingredients

For the filling
• 2 1/3 cups (280 g) of vanilla powdered sugar
• 3,5 oz (100 g) of dark chocolate chips
• about 5 cups (1,2 kg) of sheep ricotta
• 1,8 oz (50 g) of candied orange peel (optional)

For the sponge cake
• just under 2 ½ cups (300 g) of flour
• 1 ½ cups (300 g) of sugar
• 1 pinch of salt
• 10 medium eggs

For the fondant icing
• 3 cups (350 g) of powdered sugar and water, as needed

For decorating
• 7 oz (200 g) of marzipan
• 1 tbsp (20 g) of pistachio paste
• whole mixed candied fruit

For the royal icing
• 1 egg white and 1 ¼ cups (150 g) of vanilla powdered sugar

For the soaking syrup
• 2/3 cup (150 ml) of water
• a couple of strips of lemon zest
• ¼ cup (50 g) of sugar
• 1 shot of liqueur


The day before serving the cassata, you can make the sponge cake. WATCH THE SPONGE CAKE RECIPE. Still the day before, you can roughly mix the ricotta cheese with the powdered sugar and let it rest in the fridge overnight, covered with cling film; now place the ricotta mixture in a fine strainer and press it down with a spatula, to remove any lump. After it’s been strained, repeat this step once more… to make it as smooth as possible. And now we can add the dark chocolate chips to this amazing ricotta filling, mix together and keep in the fridge until it’s time to use it. The one in front of me is the traditional cassata pan, it’s a pan with flared sides, a slightly raised bottom and measures 12 inches (30 cm) at its widest diameter. Slice the sponge cake horizontally to get a ½-inch (1 cm) thick layer, then cut it into strips, about 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) wide, to line the sides of the pan. So let’s start… then cut the strips into trapezoids, because the pan has flared sides, so you don’t have to make rectangles but a trapezoidal shape with one side shorter than the opposite side. If some pieces are too thick, slice them thinner with a knife. Now cut the remaining sponge cake into 2 thinner layers, to form the bottom and top layer of the cake, a small one and a large one. To make the small circular base, just press the pan into the sponge cake and cut it out. Now take the green marzipan and cut into shapes the same size as before, at least 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) tall. You can make the green marzipan by kneading 1 tablespoon (20 g) of pistachio paste into the almond paste; if you can’t find pistachio paste, you can use green food coloring. So sprinkle the work surface with powdered sugar, roll it out to a thickness of ½ inch (1 cm) and cut into trapezoids. Sprinkle the pan with powdered sugar and line the sides with alternate trapezoids; as you can see, if you place a piece of sponge cake with the long side up, the following piece of marzipan will be placed with the long side down. Lay the sponge cake over the marzipan so that no space is left between them. Now line the bottom with the circle of sponge cake, pale side facing down; as you can see, the other pieces of sponge cake face in the same direction, but some people do the opposite, that is with the brown side facing out. Press it down to adhere, then even out the sides. Soak the sponge cake with a soaking syrup, made by dissolving the sugar in water, adding some lemon or orange zest and finally a shot of liqueur; I used maraschino, but you can choose any you like. Now fill the pan with the chocolate chip ricotta filling and spread it evenly of course. Cover the filling with the remaining sponge cake; now moisten with the syrup and let it rest in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or even overnight. It’s time to turn the cassata over, so cover with a plate and reverse it. Move on to the icing. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with just enough water to get a thick, white mixture; this will be the fondant icing to cover the cassata. As soon as it comes to a simmering point, remove from the heat and pour it over the cake. We’re ready to ice the cassata, so pour the icing over the centre and spread it out; work quickly because it hardens fast, and you don’t want the layer to be too thick; do the same on the sides. The candied fruit is a must for topping the cassata; as you can see, it’s very colorful, so you can get creative and decorate to taste. The most distinctive ingredient to garnish the cassata is candied pumpkin, called zuccata, that you can cut into strips, fold in this way and arrange on top in a flower pattern. As a finishing touch, you can further embellish it with royal icing, made by beating an egg white until stiff and adding the powdered sugar a little at a time; place in a pastry bag and decorate as you like.

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