Cassata Alla Siciliana - (Sicilian Cannoli Cake)
PREP TIME: 6 Hours
SERVES: 8 to 10

I first experienced true cassata at a dinner party in Palermo, Sicily at Ristorante Cutino. It was served as a birthday cake. However, it is often called the national cake of Sicily.


  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tbsps butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsps sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk Ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsps rum
  • ¼ heavy cream, whipped stiff
  • ¼ cup candied lemon peel, chopped
  • ¼ cup candied orange peel, chopped
  • ¼ cup candied green and red cherries, chopped
  • ¼ cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 ½ cups sweetened whipped cream
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup cold coffee
  • ½ pound cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and 3 tbsps of butter together. When hot, set aside. Using an electric mixer fitted with a wire whip, combine eggs and sugar. Whip on medium-high speed until mixture is pale yellow and tripled in volume, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. With the machine running, slowly add the heated milk. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture into the eggs and continue to whip thoroughly to remove any lumps. Add vanilla extract. Spray a ½-sized sheet pan with vegetable spray or line with parchment paper. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar over the surface. Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake approximately 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a long thin knife, loosen the edges of the cake and flip it onto a wire rack or work surface. In a separate bowl combine the Ricotta cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and rum. Using a wooden spoon, cream the ingredients together until smooth and well blended. Fold in the whipped cream. Fold in all but 1 tbsp each of the candied fruit and nuts and set aside. Divide the sheet cake into 4 equal pieces and trim the pieces to fit snugly into a 10-inch loaf pan. Brush the top of each piece with an equal amount of the Grand Marnier. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with parchment paper, place one piece of cake in the bottom of the pan and spread with 1/3 of the cheese and fruit filling. Repeat this process with the remaining cake and filling. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 3 hours. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and unmold. Place the cake on a wire rack with a sheet pan underneath. Ice the top and sides of the cake with sweetened whipped cream and return to the refrigerator for at least an hour. While the cake is chilling, place the chocolate and coffee in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a wire whisk, stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in ½ pound of butter. Continue to whisk until well blended. Cool the mixture until it is almost spreadable, but still slightly pourable. Carefully pour the chocolate frosting over the entire cake. Return to the refrigerator and chill 2 additional hours, until the icing is set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and using a long, thin spatula, carefully lift the cake off of the rack and onto a serving platter. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining fruit and nuts. Slice and serve.

NOTE: At certain times of the year, white chocolate may be used to ice the cake. Additionally, almond extract should be used in place of the vanilla and Frangelico liqueur in place of the Grand Marnier. In this case, almonds replace the pistachios.

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