DOLCE ITALIANO – CASSATA ALLA SICILIANA
It’s Tuesday again and here’s my second recipe from Gina De Palma’s excellent cookbook Dolce Italiano. If you are new to this, I just want to tell you that you have the chance to win a signed copy of Gina’s book just by leaving a comment and you can even increase the probability of winning by 10 if you leave a comment on each and every one of the ten recipes that we are blogging about! You just have to leave the comment by Friday the 7th of December to participate. Here’s what has been posted from the book so far: Sara has made Mosaic Biscotti and Sicilian Pistachio Cookies, Michelle has a Ricotta Pound Cake, Shelley made Chestnut Brownies and Jenn Chocolate Salami. Remember to check out Michelle’s post tomorrow, Shelley’s on Thursday and Jenn’s on Friday, I know that they have chosen really interesting recipes from the Dolce Italiano.
Last week I chose to make Chocolate Kisses, delicious and fairly simple to make but this week it was Marco’s turn to choose and he wanted Cassata Siciliana, a cake he has been going on about for all these year that I have known him but which I never have tried, neither to eat nor to make so this was a challenge. But I wasn’t worried because I knew I had a good recipe! It took 24 hours to make, I started Saturday afternoon and served the cake on Sunday afternoon so it’s rather different from what I usually make. Well, I used to do things like this before I started to produce children (how they change your life the little beasts, both for better and for worse but on the other hand I might have stopped doing a lot of things anyway and now I’m just blaming them unfair as I am) but nowadays I tend to go for more simple things. This cake took some time to make but it wasn’t difficult, you just need to plan the whole thing and be in the right mood! As I said I had never tasted a real Cassata alla siciliana myself so I can’t really judge but Marco, who knows, says that this cake is very, very good and he’s got some Sicilian blood in his veins so I trust him. Plus that he is a rather stern critic…
I have added the metric conversions but take it easy with the flour because my sponge cakes were a little bit stodgy and I blame it on the conversion so don’t add all of it at once but try to add a third at a time or something like that.
CASSATA ALLA SICILIANA (from Gina De Palma’s Dolce Italiano)
FOR THE SPONGE CAKES
473 ml/2 cups bleached cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
8 large eggs, separated
355 ml/1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
118 ml/½ cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
FOR THE RUM SYRUP
473 ml/2 cups granulated sugar
117 ml/¾ cup cold water
118 ml/½ cup rum
FOR THE FILLING
85 g ( I used 100g)/ 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
117 ml/¾ cup shelled whole unsalted pistachios
710 ml/3 cups fresh, whole.milk ricotta
237 ml/1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated zest of 2 medium oranges
FOR THE ICING
473 ml/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
118 ml/½ cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled, far garnish
Maraschino or amarena cherries, for garnish (optional)
Candied orange zest, far garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 9by-2-inch round cake pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray, line them with parchment parer, then grease the parchment.
To make the sponge cakes: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg yolks with the sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted butter Transfer the egg mixture to a large, clean mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredients quickly and lightly, using a rubber spatula, stopping just before they are fully incorporated. Clean the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.
Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt in the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until they form firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter quickly and lightly; this will also incorporate any streaks of dry ingredients that remain.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Bake the cakes far 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cakes have begun to pull away tram the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool far 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the rum syrup: In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and rum. Place the saucepan aver medium heat and bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and allow the syrup to simmer far 5 minutes. Remove the pan tram the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Next, prepare the filling: Using a microplane or box grater, grate the chocolate into fine, feathery shreds. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the pistachios. Place the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat until the ricotta is creamy and soft Add the grated chocolate, chopped pistachios, and orange zest and beat just until combined.
To assemble the cassata: Have ready a 9-inch springform pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully split each cake layer in half horizontally to make four layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and, using a pastry brush, moisten it generously and evenly with some of the rum syrup. Spread the cake layer evenly with one third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice with another cake layer, more of the rum syrup, and another third of the ricotta mixture. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the rum syrup. Wrap the springform pan tightly in plastic wrap; this helps the layers fit snugly on top of each other. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. -.
To prepare the icing: Place the sifted confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the egg white and water and beat the ingredients together with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the almond extract.
To finish the cassata: Remove the cassata tram the refrigerator and carefully remove the sides of the pan. You may need to run a hot knife around the sides first. You may leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan, or carefully transfer it to a card¬board cake circle with an offset spatula. Place the cake on a wire rack to ice it; you can place some parchment or wax paper underneath to catch any drips.
Spread the icing aver the top and sides of the cake, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Scatter the toasted almonds aver the top and let the cake sit until the icing sets. Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.
Before serving, carefully transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand, and, if desired, decorate the cassata with maraschino or amarena cherries and some strips of candied orange zest.