Sicilian Cassata ("Cannoli Cake")

Sicilian cassata is a traditional dessert made with the same ricotta cheese mixture as is used in cannoli, candied citrus peel, and homemade sponge cake (pan di spagna) soaked in a sweet liqueur. It is traditionally a winter and spring dessert served at Christmas and Easter. There are many variations of cassata throughout Sicily. It may be formed as a round layer cake or a loaf cake that has been cut and reformed into many layers.
Photo by Cathy T.

PREP TIME

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minutes

TOTAL TIME

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minutes

SERVINGS

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servings

PREP TIME

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minutes

TOTAL TIME

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minutes

SERVINGS

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servings

Ingredients

  • Pan di Spagna:

  • 1-1/4

    cups cake flour

  • 1

    teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2

    teaspoon salt

  • 6

    eggs, separated

  • 1

    cup sugar

  • 1

    tablespoon honey

  • 4

    tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Rum Sauce:

  • 1/4

    cup dark rum *

  • 1/4

    cup sugar

  • Note:

  • An orange-flavored liqueur, Strega, Amaretto, or Marsala wine

  • may be substituted for the rum

  • Cannoli Filling:

  • 15

    ounces ricotta cheese

  • 4

    ounces cream cheese

  • 1/2

    cup confectioners’ sugar

  • Grated zest of 1 large orange

  • 1

    teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2

    teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4

    cup mini chocolate chips

  • Chocolate Frosting:

  • 8

    ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 4

    tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1

    tablespoon light corn syrup

  • 1

    teaspoon vanilla

  • 1

    teaspoon instant espresso powder

  • 1

    cup confectioners’ sugar

  • 1/2 to 3/4

    heavy cream

  • Garnish:

  • Chopped pistachios

  • Chopped candied orange peel

Directions

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 12 x 17-inch baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar, using the whip attachment. Beat until tripled in volume and light in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in the honey, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Set the mixture aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites. Alternate folding in the flour mixture and egg whites until the batter well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. The cake will be lightly golden not browned. While the cake is baking, make the rum sauce: Combine the rum and sugar in a small saucepan; cook until the sugar dissolves, 2-3 minutes. Set the saucepan aside. When the cake is done, immediately invert the hot cake onto a kitchen towel. Carefully peel off the parchment paper. Brush the cake with the rum mixture. Starting from a long side, roll the cake with the towel into a jelly roll. Cool the cake roll, seam side down, on a wire rack until completely cool, about 1 hour. To make the filling: Put all the filling ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in a bowl. With a electric mixer, combine the mixture until smooth. Stir in the mini chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate while cake cools. To make the frosting: Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the chocolate for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Continue heating and stirring at 30 second intervals until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the corn syrup, vanilla, and espresso powder. Add 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and half of the heavy cream. With an electric mixer, beat until fairly smooth (the mixture may still look a little thick.) Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and continue beating to incorporate. Then add more of the cream, a little at a time, until the frosting becomes smooth and glossy. To assemble the cake: Gently unroll the cooled cake. With an off-set spatula, spread the cannoli filling over the cake almost to the edges. Starting from the same long side, roll the cake without the towel. Place the cake, seam side down, on a platter. With an off-set spatula, spread the chocolate frosting over the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped pistachios and candied orange peel. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate.

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