The cassata cake is one of our Italian holiday traditions . It's our Easter cake. (There's no rule that says you can't make an Easter dessert anytime!)
So here's how the cassata cake works:
A cassata cake isn't cake-y in texture. Think of a cassata cake as a cannoli not in a shell, but surrounded with a sponge cake. It's similar to the cake that's around my jelly roll recipe - except the recipe isn't exactly the same. I just mention it so you can get an idea of what the cake part is like.
If you are looking for one of those quick easy cake recipes , this may not be the cake for you.
A cassata cake is an Italian Easter tradition - and for that reason, most of us are OK with the extra steps it requires. By "those steps" I mean, there's a lot of little things about trimming, fitting etc. And that's the part that you can get fussy over, if you want it to look ultra smooth like the picture. You can scroll below to read those FAQ's. And yes, there are a few substitutions. But again, this is a one of those traditional Italian cakes . And we don't wanna mess too much with tradition when we are substituting. And if you are into Italian holiday traditions for Easter, see my Italian Easter Bread recipe.
Enjoy and thanks for stopping by -
* 4 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups of flour
* 1/2 cup of sugar
* 1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese (no fat-free please, or low fat)
* 3/4 cup of candied peel - lemon or orange(see FAQs below)
* 1/2 cup of MINI semi-sweet chocolate morsels
* 2 tablespoons of honey
* juice of half a lemon
* lemon zest
* 1/2 - 3/4 cup of marsala (an Italian cooking wine - found in most liquor stores)
* 3 tablespoons of apricot jam
* 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds (blanched almonds!)
* 3/4 cup of powdered sugar
* 5-6 tablespoons of FINE granulated sugar
* 1/4 tsp of vanilla
* 1- 2 tblspoons of milk
* drop or two of green food coloring
The sponge cake:
* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
* Whisk the 4 eggs and sugar until well blended
* Stir in the flour
* Put in 1 - 9 inch cake pan
* Bake about 25 minutes (see tip below)
* Once the cake is cooled. Slice into 3 thin layers. (Use dental floss to help slicing!)
* Line a 9 inch spring form pan with wax paper
* Place one round layer on the bottom of the pan
* Next, cut strips from one of the round slices to mold around the edge
* Press snugly so that it looks like the inside of a hat. If it's ragged, patch it in. Just work with it so that ends meet. See my pic? I had to work awhile to get it set.
* If I ever have holes - I patch them with left over strips
* Lightly brush the cake with the marsala
* Keep the remaining round piece for the bottom - we will use it last
* Mix these guys until they are smooth; the ricotta, honey, lemon juice, and zest. (I use a blender)
* Make sure your candied peel is chopped real small. If not, chop her down.
* Add the candied peel and MINI semi sweet morsels to ricotta mixture.
* Chop up any remaining pieces of the cake and add them to the mixture.
* (DON'T chop up the round piece for the bottom!)
* Blend the filling together
* Spoon the filling inside the cake shell (which looks like the inside of a hat).
* Tamp it down so it is level.
* Take the last round sponge cake layer and put it on top (which will be the bottom once we invert).
* Brush the rest of the marsala on the bottom layer
* Cover the cake with saran or wax paper and put weights on top. Let it chill at least 4 hours. (It will settle. I use rice or beans for the weight.)
* The icing isn't super easy. So if you want an "out" go buy almond paste. If not here's how I do it.
* Take the almonds and grind them fine. It will be hard to get a real smooth grind with NON- industrial blenders. But my family has to live with it.
* Add the powdered sugar, and the super fine sugar.
* Make a well in the bowl and add the almond flavoring, milk, and green food coloring
* I find the paste tough to work with warm. So stick it in the fridge.
* Roll it out between two pieces of wax paper. (If it gets warm - cool it off again.)
* The icing needs to be real thin. So roll it out in stages.
* Once it can cover the cake and cover the sides you are ready. Again, it's super thin.
* Take the cake out of the fridge.
* If it settles where any ragged edge sticking up - trim 'em.
* Once you have the bottom looking flat - invert the cake on a serving plate or cake board.
* Spread the apricot jam over the top of the cake. (You may want to push it through a sieve if you are compulsive about an ULTRA smooth topped cake.)
* Lay your very thin icing over the cake and cut off the excess icing (if you have any).
TIP: Almond paste from the store is pricey - but making your own is tedious to get it thin and smooth. I usually can't get mine real smooth. But I can get this to cover my cake.
TIP: It wouldn't hurt to cook your sponge cake a little "hard". You don't need it pliable to roll like in a jelly roll recipe .
* I'd give your self some time to do all of this. Including cooking - I'd set aside a MINIMUM of - and that's the prep time. Not the sitting time. :-)
Nope. First a cassata cake is traditional. And that flavor is expected. But most important is - the marsala is what flavors the sponge cake. And then it permeates through the filling. You absolutely MUST have it.
Nope. The honey blends well with the ricotta. You need that smooth texture. If you use sugar you will have a gritty filling. And doing that would just be like - amateur.
Yup. You need the complimentary zing. The honey is the sweet. The zest and juice are the zing. And please do NOT use the FAKE PLASTIC BOTTLE. Seriously. Don't. Your store has lemons. Pick up a few :-)
Sure. I'm all for something to save time in this cake.
You don't have to. It just keeps brown flecks out of the icing and makes it look more smooth. (See how to blanch almonds .)
Nothing. Don't substitute. Most stores have candied peel. My store doesn't have a lot. But they have two types. Use what your store offers. Traditional it's orange and lemon. But hey, my store offers lemon and cherry. I use that. But don't substitute any other type of ingredient. Again, we want to keep this traditional. That's what a cassata cake is - a traditional cake served after Easter dinner. Just use what candied peel you can find.
Nope. But I'd HIGHLY suggest it. Here's why. You have smooth filling, and chopped candied peel. If you add normal size, it interrupts the "flow". It's chunky. Big. Know what I mean? It's like getting your taste buds in the groove of texture - and then BLAMM you slam it with a hunk of chocolate The mini morsel goes more with the flow. It melds
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