Cassata Siciliana, a cake that I have been going on about for months, that I have known but which I never have tried, neither to eat nor to make so this was a challenge. 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!
I didn’t torment myself trying to get a professional patissier’s design or finish to the cake; I think the decoration looks best when naive and asymmetrical, except for the Valentine’s heart of course :)
For the sponge cake:
200g plain flour, sifted
9 tbs maraschino liqueur or any other cherry liqueur
For the filling:
750g ricotta cheese
1/2 vanilla pod
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g dark chocolate
250g candied cherries
100g shelled whole unsalted pistachios
For the whipped cream frosting:
2 x double cream
50g caster cugar
Preheat the oven to 170°C and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease 23cm round cake pan with butter.
Use the whisk attachment to beat the eggs with the sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume, about 10 minutes. Fold in the flour lightly, using a rubber spatula, stopping just before they are fully incorporated.
Now pour the mixture to the round cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until it is golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake has begun to pull away tram the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the filling. Using a grater, grate the chocolate into fine, feathery shreds. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the pistachios. Place the ricotta, sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until the ricotta is creamy and soft. Now add the grated chocolate, chopped pistachios and half of candied cherries, then beat just until combined.
Now, using a bread knife, carefully split cake to make three layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and moisten it generously and evenly with some of the cherry liqueur. Spread the cake layer evenly with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat again. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the cherry liqueur. Then chill the cake in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
To prepare the frosting: Place caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add double cream and beat the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.
To finish the cassata: Remove the cassata tram the refrigerator and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Place the cake on a wire rack to ice it. Spread the cream icing over the top and sides of the cake, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Scatter the chocolate over the top and let the cake sit until the icing sets. Now garnish sides of the cake with a sprinkle of the chopped pistachios.
Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours.
Felice giorno di San Valentino !