This is a simple, classic dessert, made from ricotta and sponge cake, and should not be confused with cassata gelata, which is an ice-cream bombe. Prepare it a day ahead of time.
450 g /1 lb ricotta
225 g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons caster/granulated sugar
225 g / 8 oz dark/bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Amaretto, or other almond-flavoured liqueur
175 g/1¾ cups shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
200 g/7 oz glacé/candied fruits, chopped
12 Italian lady finger/savoiardi biscuits (recipe below)
½ Italian sponge cake (recipe below), cut horizontally
Italian lady fingers
3 UK large/US extra large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
85 g/¾ self-raising/rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
85 g/¼ plus 2 tablespoons caster/granulated sugar
Italian sponge cake
5 UK large/US extra large eggs, separated
225 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons caster/granulated sugar
200 g/1½ cups plain/all-purpose white or Italian ‘00’ flour
Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum
225 ml/1 cup double/heavy cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto
Glacé/candied fruit, to decorate
23-cm/9-inch loose-bottomed round, deep cake pan, greased and floured
Preheat the oven to 180°F (350°F) Gas 4.
To make the Italian lady fingers, beat the egg yolks until thick, then beat in the vanilla extract. In a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then whisk in the salt and sugar until the whites are glossy and very stiff. Use a metal spoon, fold the egg yolks into the egg whites, followed by the sifted flour. Drop tablespoons of the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet, and spread to form fingers measuring about 20 x 6 cm (8 x 2½ inches). Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
To make the sponge cake, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Gradually sift in and fold in the flour. Add the lemon zest, vanilla, and rum, and mix together until well blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown and well risen. Turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
Line the base and sides of a 1.7-litre/3-pint pudding basin with clingfirm/plastic wrap.
Beat together the ricotta and sugar until light and fluffy. Divide the mixture in half.
Chop half of the chocolate into small pieces. Add to half of the ricotta mixture with the cinnamon and Amaretto. Fold the pistachio nuts and glacé fruits through the other half. Cover both mixtures and set aside.
Use the lady fingers to line the prepared basin, pressing them firmly around the bowl so that they are even. Fill first with the fruit-ricotta mixture, then with the chocolate-ricotta mixture. Cover the top with the cake. Cover the bowl with clingfilm/plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours or longer.
Remove the basin from the freezer. Melt the remaining chocolate and pour over the top of the sponge in the bowl. Return to the freezer for about 15 minutes, until set.
To make the topping, whip the cream and Amaretto together until it just holds its shape.
Just before serving, turn out the cassata. Ease around the edges of the basin with a palette knife, then place a serving plate over the top. Invert the basin onto the plate, and let the cassata gently ease out, chocolate side down.
Spread out the cream mixture to cover, and decorate with glacé/candied fruit.
Excerpted from Cucina Siciliana by Ursula Ferrigno, published by Ryland Peters & Small (CAN $27.95). Photography by David Munns © Ryland Peters & Small. Used with permission from the publisher.
This original recipe article first appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.