> Recipes > Ricotta

Cassata
  • Snack
  • medium
  • 6
  • 2 hours 30 minutes, plus 6 hours resting time for the cassata and draining time for the ricotta

PT2H30M

PT6H

If you are thinking of a trip to Sicily, well, springtime is the best period of the year.

You will be welcomed by sunny and warm days, sunlight and aromas... the smell of orange blossom, jasmine, the sea, the smell of the pasticcerie with their triumph of savoury and sweet aromas.

Springtime, and Easter, in Sicily means cassata! In fact, while you can find this cake at most other points of the year (except during the hot summer) the cassata was born to celebrate the end of Lent.

Nothing better represents Sicily than the cassata: the softness of the ricotta cream, the smell of the marzipan, the colours of the beautiful candied fruits, the baroque decorations.

While we are not sure about the origin of its name – be it from the Arab word qas’at, the name of the ancient tin used to prepare the cake, or the Latin word caseum, for cheese – we know that the cassata evolved over time.

We find the first version of the cake between the ninth and eleventh century, when the Arabs brought sugarcane, almonds and fruits like clementines and lemons to Sicily.

The coloured marzipan was introduced by the nuns of the convents and with the Spanish domination we have the pan di spagna, the sponge cake, and the chocolate.

So when you are in Sicily on a sunny terrace overlooking the sea, with a slice of a cassata and a good glass of passito, consider that you're eating not only a cake, but a piece of history.

It's simple to prepare a good Cassata at home. The recipe you find below is my family version. I reduce the sugar amount compared to a traditional recipe and – as I'm not a candied fruits lover – I don't include them in the ricotta cream, but just use them to decorate the cake.

For this recipe you will need a 21–22cm round tin with sloped sides for the cassata and a 26cm round cake tin for the sponge cake.

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

1
Before beginning the cake, it is important to thoroughly strain the ricotta before using – just place the cheese in a colander for 1–2 hours before you prepare the cream
2
To make the ricotta cream, combine the ricotta with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour – this step is important as the sugar needs to be completely dissolved
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3
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease a round cake tin and dust with flour
4
Whisk the eggs with the sugar, vanilla extract and salt for 10–15 minutes, until the batter forms a ribbon when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. At this point, fold in the flour in 2 or 3 additions
5
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack
6
to finish the ricotta cream, pass the sweetened ricotta through a sieve. Mix in the chocolate and liqueur with a spatula and set aside
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7
To make the marzipan, place the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil for 5 minutes until you have a syrupy consistency. Allow to cool
8
Combine the icing sugar and almond flour in a bowl. Add enough syrup to obtain a soft dough and add a small drop of green food colouring, mixing well to incorporate. Wrap in cling film and set aside
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9
Line the cassata tin with cling film. Roll out the marzipan to a 1/2cm thickness and cut into strips as wide as the edges of the pan. Cut the strips into 3cm wide pieces
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10
Cut the sponge into 1cm thick slices and the cut the slices into pieces the same size as the marzipan
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11
Use the sponge pieces and marzipan pieces to line the edges of the cassata tin
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12
Cover the base of the tin with other sponge cake stripes and brush all the sponge cake – base and edges – with liqueur
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13
Add the ricotta cream and level the surface
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14
Cover the ricotta with the rest of the sponge strips. Brush with the liqueur, cover the cake with the overhanging cling film and leave to refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours, preferably overnight
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15
Turn the cassata out onto a serving plate and carefully remove the cling film
16
Prepare the icing by mixing icing sugar with some drops of lemon juice, adding water as necessary to obtain a fluid consistency
17
Spread the icing on top of the cake to create a smooth, even layer of icing
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18
Cut the candied fruits and use to decorate the cassata in your desired design
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