Cassata is the definitive Sicilian dessert. This ingenious blend of vanilla sponge, creamy ricotta, marzipan and candied fruit is among the island’s national treasures. It encompasses Sicily’s rich heritage: sugar, almonds and citrus were introduced by the Arabs in the 9th and 11th centuries, royal pastries were perfected by nuns during the Norman period, and the sponge was a gift from the Spanish. Combined, these ingredients produce a show-stopping gateau crowned with jewels of glacé fruit. Here, Verdura Resort Pastry Chef Francesco Virga shares his take on the classic so you can enjoy a taste of Sicily at home.
Ingredients (serves 6)
½ glass milk
1.5 bags of baking powder
Ricotta cream filling
300g fresh ricotta
50g candied squash
100g dark chocolate chips
½ bag vanilla powder
200g almond flour
400g candied fruit
Green food colouring
For the sponge
In a bowl, whip together the eggs and sugar until white and foamy. Mix the flour and baking powder separately, then sieve them in a little at a time. Add the milk slowly and continue blending.
Once well-blended, place the mixture in a baking tray lined with non-stick spray or paper. Bake for 50 minutes at 165 degrees Celsius.
Allow to cool, then slice into thin strips 4cm wide and the height of the cake mould.
For the filling
Mix the ricotta with the caster sugar and stir in the chocolate chips and candied squash.
For the marzipan
Mix the water, sugar and green food colouring and bring to the boil, then add the almond flour. Keep stirring and cooking the mixture for a few minutes, then leave to cool.
Roll out the paste and slice into strips the height of the mould and 4cm wide.
To assemble and decorate
Line the sides of your cake mould with alternate strips of marzipan and sponge.
Line the base with a layer of sponge to create a basin, and soak with a mixture of water, sugar and Marsala wine.
Fill the basin with the ricotta mix, before topping with a layer of sponge that fits flush to the edges, pre-soaked in the Marsala wine mixture.
Place a large plate over the mould and flip it over. Gently remove the mould.
Decorate with sugar syrup, before adding candied squash and candied fruit. Allow the cake to stand for at least 4 hours in the fridge before serving.
Try Francesco’s cassata in situ at Verdura Resort. Book your stay by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +39 06 32 888 630.