How to cook like an Italian

My Cassata Cake saga

I decided to make a classic Sicilian dessert called the Cassata cake. It’s really like the filling of a cannoli stuffed in the middle of a sponge cake. My family has been making this cake for generations and it’s time I learn how to do it myself. Halfway through, I realized I made a major mistake. Let’s hope it comes out okay. Here’s what I did right and wrong:

First, I printed out the Cassata Cake recipe from our website, sent to us by Joan Crosby. What I didn’t see when I read the recipe is that you are supposed to whip the heavy cream first before you add it to the filling you make. I even went so far as to make the two sponge cakes, or Angel’s Food cakes from scratch, although Joan suggests store bought as an alternative.

I used a bundt pan to make the cakes, which were not that easy, by the way, but now I know how and these cakes would be delicious on their own with a little whipped cream and strawberries. They bake for 45 minutes, around and then you must turn them over and let them rest on a clean bottle to cool completely before you take them out of the pan, however they really don’t need to be pretty since they are getting cut up anyway for the cake.

While the cakes are baking, you take the ricotta, sugar (I used powdered sugar), vanilla and you mix thm together. Separately you whip one pint of the cream and then fold it in with the ricotta and add chocolate chips if you like. I missed this important detail and dumped in a pint of un-whipped cream. I knew something was wrong because the filling looked too loose.

It should be like cannoli filling but mine was runny. So I kept beating it all together, thinking that would stiffen the whole mixture, and it sort of did. Note: at this point, you could add a spray of rum, Grand Marnier or almond extract, as someone pointed out to me.

Then I sliced the cakes, lined a mixing bowl with plastic wrap so the cake wouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl, and lined the bowl with the cake slices, similar to how you would make a charlotte type cake.

You add the filling and either do another layer of cake, more filling and then a bottom layer of cake, or you do one layer of filling and one last layer of cake. You then put something on the bottom layer to weigh it down (I used bananas) and stick it in the fridge over night. I didn’t have that kind of time so I put it in the fridge for a good six hours, which was fine.

when you are ready to serve, you flip the cake onto a plate (be careful) and take the other pint of cream, whip it and frost the cake with pure whipped cream. You can then shave chocolate on the top of the cake and decorate it with candied fruit. Some people use marzipan but I have not seen that in my family.

Although I made a mistake, the cake turned out just fine. In fact it was delicious!

Here’s Joan Crosby’s mother-in-law with her classic Cassata cake:

3 Responses to “My Cassata Cake saga”

  1. Mom says:

    Some tips:
    1. Always used powdered sugar.
    2. Store bought angel food cake freezes well, and cuts more easily when frozen.
    3. Cut the cake with a plastic knife and the cake wouldn’t stick to the knife.
    4. Spray the cake pan with Pam before filling. You can also use a 9X13 inch pan since you’re going to cut it up anyway.
    5. The bowl can be turned upside down on a plate after filling the bowl the top (last layer of cake).
    6. Fresh or dried fruit can be added to the ricotta mixture in addition to the chocolate. I like berries.

  2. michele says:

    this sounds wonderful and since I am italian I know I will like it. I was wondering if there’s a way to print this.?? I’ll try and look to figure it out. thanks for the delicious recipe!

  3. ceejay says:

    michele…click on the second paragraph in this articale and it will take you to the recipe.
    will make this . How about subbing mini choc chips for the candy bars. Sounds like a good do ahead for the bbq on father’s day.

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