Chocolate Cake of the Month: Italian Cassata

Sunday October 25, 2015

Smack dab in the middle of nonstop entertaining, you’re asked to make the dessert for a grand occasion sit-down dinner.  Then there’s a dessert for the family picnic. A baby shower. Old friends drop in at 3 p.m. and they’re staying for dinner.  So, what can you prepare and serve, yet never turn on the oven?  A host of beautiful, well-presented desserts that start with store-bought pound cake. The best of which is a Cassata Siciliana.

homemade poundcake/one of the joys of baking

Supermarket bakeries carry excellent fresh basic cakes like pound cake and angel food, but the old standby, Sara Lee brand, is in the freezer section of all stores.  These buttery products rival homemade, and you can conveniently keep them in your freezer, in perfect condition, for up to 2 months. Sara Lee weighs in at 10 3/4 ounces, making 8 slices; 9-by-5-inch bakery cakes vary from 10 to 12 slices. Of course you can bake your own from scratch or a mix and pop it in the freezer as well.

Pound cakes are the basis for many desserts such as Baked Alaska and the ever-popular fruit and custard trifle pudding.  The luscious Italian Cassata Siciliana, a specialty sweet from Sicily, is filled with a ricotta filling sandwiched with some chocolate chips and minced dried fruit in place of the seasonal candied fruit peels. Whole milk ricotta is so delicious it is in a cheese world of its own. It is just the luscious cannoli filling, that is so good you want to eat it with a spoon, in a different shape and package. Be sure to store this cake in the refrigerator. It is meant to be eaten chilled with coffee or a glass of Prosecco sparkling wine.

Italian Cassata



1-pound ricotta cheese, whole milk preferred

2 tablespoons cream or milk

1/2 teaspoon orange oil or zest of 1 organic orange

3 tablespoons granulated cane sugar

2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

3-ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

3 heaping tablespoons combination chopped dried apricots and dried cherries


12-ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup strong coffee

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

1 chilled or partially frozen whole pound cake

1/4 cup Amaretto


Prepare the filling: In a food processor, whip by pulsing the ricotta, cream, orange oil or zest, sugar, and liqueur until smooth.  Fold in the fruit and chocolate.  Refrigerate until needed.

Prepare the frosting: Melt the chocolate and coffee in a double boiler over simmering water; cool.  Transfer to an electric mixer and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time.  Refrigerate if necessary until spreadable consistency.

To assemble: Using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake horizontally into 3 or 4 even layers.  Place the

slicing horizontally and filling/photos courtesy of

first layer on a serving plate and brush with liqueur.  Spread with filling evenly and cover with the next layer.  Repeat until the last layer is set on top; press to compact; chill 2 hours to firm.  Trim cake so that the sides are even.  Using a metal spatula, frost sides and top with a thin layer of frosting.  Decorate as desired, and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving chilled slices with a dessert wine.  Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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