Cassata Cake

Italian Cassata cake recipe

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Refrigerate: 4 hrs
Total: 5 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
731 Calories
40g Fat
81g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 731
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 51%
Saturated Fat 21g 107%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 285mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 81g 30%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 63g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 4mg 20%
Calcium 265mg 20%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 275mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Traditional cassata cake, as it's made in Italy, is nothing like the version found in the United States. Although both are delicious, the original Sicilian cake has ingredients like marzipan on the outside and candied fruit in the filling. Both versions feature a delicious sponge cake moistened with liqueur, or juice, and a rich and creamy ricotta-and-chocolate filling, similar to that used in cannoli. Sweet but not over the top, the American version of this wonderful cake is also decorated with strawberries, which give some freshness and tang to the sweet cake.

Cassata's origin is attributed to the Arabic rule in Sicily starting in the 10th century, but theories conflict. Some say its name derives from the Arabic word qas’at—a cake pan—and others from the Latin term for cheese, caseus. But what could actually have happened is that Arabs brought sugar-producing mills to the south of Italy and this, combined with local baking traditions and a love for dairy, gave origin to a sugary cake filled with cheese. Regardless of the origin of the name or its inventor, cassata is a celebratory cake associated with Easter, and bakeries in Italian neighborhoods around the world all have a different take on it.

Our cassata has the ricotta filling of the classic Italian cake but also honors the American taste for fresh fruit on sweet cakes. Before you begin, be mindful that you need two 2-layer cakes—white or yellow—and that the finished cake needs at least four hours in the fridge to set. For best results, we recommend assembling the unfrosted cake the day before your event and allowing it to chill overnight.

Ingredients

For the Filling:

  • 30 ounces whole milk ricotta

  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 6 ounces semisweet mini chocolate chips

  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from 2 lemons, zested

For the Cake:

  • 2 white or yellow cakes, 4 layers total

  • 1/2 cup rum, or Marsala wine

  • 2 tablespoons water

For the Frosting:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream

  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugarsifted

  • 1 tablespoon rum, or Marsala wine

For Decorating:

  • 6 small whole strawberries

  • 6 maraschino cherries

  • 1/4 pound semisweet chocolate, shaved

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this cassata cake is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for frosting

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla with an electric mixer or by hand until you have as smooth and homogenous a mixture as possible—the ricotta will still cause it to have a few lumps.

    Blending ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Once the ricotta mixture is well incorporated, hand stir in the chocolate chips and the lemon zest.

    Add chocolate chips and lemon zest

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it at least for as long as it takes you to bake and cool the cake. The filling could be made a day in advance if desired.

    Covering the battle in plastic wrap

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Assemble the Cake

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for cake

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Once your cakes of choice are completely cool, either use a long serrated knife or sturdy thread to slice them horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve the 4 layers.

    Slicing cake horizontally into 2 layers
    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  3. In a small bowl, mix the rum with the water.

    Mix rum
    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  4. Use a pastry brush to brush the outside part of the cake layers with the liquor mixture. Give each layer a minute or two to absorb the alcohol before assembling the cake.

    Brush cake
    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  5. Place a single layer of cake in the bottom of a 9-inch cheesecake springform pan. Spread 1/3 of the chilled filling mixture on top. Repeat with a second layer of cake and another 1/3 of the mixture and spread the final 1/3 of the mixture on top of the third layer of cake.

    Place cake in pan and add chilled filling mixture

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  6. Cover the assembled cake with the fourth layer of cake, brown part up.

    Covering the assembled cake with fourth layer

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  7. Wrap the unfrosted cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours.

Make the Frosting and Decorate the Cake

  1. Once you're ready to assemble, whip the cream with powdered sugar and rum. Beat until you have firm peaks. If not using right away, store the whipped cream in the refrigerator until ready to use.

    Whipped cream in a bowl

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Unwrap the cake and carefully move it to a serving plate. Frost the cake top and then the sides with the whipped cream mixture.

    Unwrap cake and frost

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Alternate the strawberries with the cherries on the outer edge of the cake. Place the chocolate shavings in the center. If not slicing right away, place the cake back in the fridge.

    Cut slice of fully decorated cake

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Serve and enjoy

    Italian ricotta cassata cake fully decorated

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

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