North American-style cassata cake for Easter, or any occasion.
With a thick, rich, creamy, ricotta filling in a delicious sponge cake shell, cassata cake has to be one of my favourite Easter treats. It originated in Sicily and today it's a traditional part of Italian Easter celebrations.
The generous filling is sweet, like cannoli filling, and the sponge is made moist with apricot liqueur. Swap the liqueur with juice for a non-alcoholic version or stay more traditional and use marsala (an Italian cooking wine). The sweet cheese filling contains candied fruit, much like the original Sicilian version, but without the traditional marzipan outer layer. I opt instead for a simple sprinkle of powdered sweetener. Often the North American version of this cake swaps out the candied fruit for chocolate chips, but I think the fruit pairs better with the ricotta.
If you don't feel like making the sponge cake from scratch, store-bought yellow or white sponge cake can work in a pinch. If opting for chocolate chips instead of candied fruit, try a chocolate sponge cake for something a little different and unconventional.
This cake needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight to ensure the filling sets up. So, give yourself a day before serving.
(Makes 8 servings)
4 large eggs
1, 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup monk fruit sweetener (or granulated sugar}
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apricot liqueur (or marsala, or juice)
1, 1/2 cups full fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons pure honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup candied fruit, finely chopped
1/4 cup baking monk fruit sweetener (or confectioner's sugar) (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C and prepare a 9-inch cake pan lightly greased and lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and whisk to break up the yolks. Using a spatula, begin stirring in the flour a bit at a time. Once the flour is incorporated, mix in the sweetener, pure vanilla extract, and salt. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
Once the cake is cooled, prepare a 9-inch springform pan, lightly greased and lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
Use a knife to help loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, then turn the pan over to extract the cake. With the cake upside-down, use a very sharp cake knife, or piece of dental floss to cleanly slice the cake horizontally about 1/2-inch from the bottom (which is the top of the cake). Flip the top, thick portion (the bottom of the cake) into the springform pan. Carefully dig out the centre, leaving walls and bottom of at least 1/2-inch to form a shell. Reserve the cake that is removed from the centre.
Brush the inside of the cake and the inner side of the top of the cake with the apricot liqueur. Set aside.
Into a food processor, or high-powered blender, add the ricotta, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest then blend until very smooth. Add the reserved sponge cake removed from the centre of the cake shell and blend again until smooth. Add the finely chopped candied fruit and pulse a few times to incorporate.
Spoon the filling into the cake shell, tamping it down to settle the filling and remove any bubbles. Place the top of the cake onto the filled shell, baked side up. Cover the top of the cake with clingwrap and add pie weights to the top. Refrigerate overnight (or a minimum of 6 hours). The filling will form up and the top will adhere to the body of the cake.
Before serving, unwrap, invert the cake onto a serving dish, and sprinkle with powdered sweetener (optional).
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
total calories = 278 | total fat = 6.2g | saturated fat = 3.04g | cholesterol = 111.75mg | sodium = 152.63mg | net carbohydrates = 48.67g | dietary fibre = 0.46g | sugars = 15.17g | protein = 10.59g