Cassata siciliana is yet another cake I've been meaning to make for years. YEARS. I have so many projects on the list to get through, seriously. The original Italian cassata cake is a light sponge with a sweet ricotta filling and a green marzipan collar, and the sponge is usually lightly-brushed with some kind of alcohol or another. I had a large open bottle of honjozo sake in the fridge (fruity/floral notes with a slightly sweet edge), and I thought eh, why not.
Cassata siciliana traditionally has loops of candied squash (called zuccata) and other candied fruits. We can't get zuccata in the UK and I'm not a fan of candied fruit anyway, but I think the cherries are a must, at least. I compromised and made loops of chocolate instead, but even this is optional.
Ready? Let's go.
Ingredients for Sponge:
4 large eggs
100g caster sugar
4 tbsp simple syrup
100g strong bread flour (plain)
For Brushing the Sponge:
200ml honjozo sake
Ingredients for Marzipan:
200g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
2 drops almond extract
A few drops green food colouring
1–2 tbsp water (to add bit by bit)
Ingredients for Filling:
150ml double cream
50g caster sugar
2 tsp gelatine powder, soaked in 2 tbsp cold water
150ml honjozo sake
100g milk chocolate chips
Water icing (icing sugar mixed with a little water)
Anything else you like
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line the bottoms of both a 26 x 36cm baking tray and an 8″ round loose bottomed pan with baking parchment. Grease and flour the sides.
2. To make the sponge, whisk all of the ingredients except for the flour in a large bowl with an electric mixer until about four times the volume, thick and fluffy. Gently fold in the flour, and pour half into the rectangular pan and half into the round tin. Spread evenly in both, tap the tins on the counter a few times to remove large air bubbles, and pop int the oven: bake the rectangle for about 15 minutes and the round one for about 25. Let both cool completely after baking.
3. To make the marzipan, put the almonds, sugar and food colouring in the food processor and start blending. Add the water as a slow trickle just until it starts to clump up in the processor, and continue to blend until it forms a ball.
4. Line another 8″ round loose bottomed pan with clingfilm. Roll out the marzipan on plenty of extra icing sugar, and line the inside of the pan, trimming off the excess.
5. To make the filling, whisk the ricotta, cream and sugar together until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the sake until steaming and just bubbling, switch off the heat and add the soaked gelatine, stirring until completely dissolved. Whisk into the ricotta filling, and stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Slice the round cake in half lengthways and slice the rectangular cake into fingers. Generously brush the fingers with sake on both sides and use to line the sides of your marzipan-lined pan. Trim one of the round cake halves with sake so it fits snugly in the bottom of the pan, and brush with more sake. Pour in the ricotta filling, trim the last cake round, brush with more sake and pop on top of the filling. trim any excess around the sides, cover with more clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
7. When you're ready to serve it, remove the top sheet of clingfilm, flip the tin upside-down onto a place (carefully!), and remove the rest of the clingfilm. Cover the top with a thin layer of water icing and decorate with your favourite things. Slice up and serve.
Enjoy, and have fun.