The classic Sicilian cassata is a spongecake layered with creamy sweetened ricotta, a heavenly combination. Though usually topped with colorful candied fruits, this summery version is covered with ripe red berries. Ideally, the spongecake should be made a day ahead and the cassata assembled at least several hours in advance. Look for the freshest, tastiest ricotta; most good cheese stores can supply it.
- Serves: 8 persons
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter, for preparing pan
- 2tablespoons all-purpose flour, for preparing pan
- 6large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾cup/150 grams sugar
- 1teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- ½teaspoon almond extract
- 1 ⅓cups/140 grams sifted cake flour
- ½cup sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon, removed in large strips
- 2tablespoons grappa or vodka
- 2cups/500 grams fresh ricotta
- ¼cup/55 grams sugar, or more to taste
- ½pound/223 grams ripe strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1tablespoon sugar
- 2tablespoons lemon juice
Step 1Bake the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch diameter springform pan and set aside.
Step 2In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs at medium speed. Add sugar, lemon zest, salt and almond extract and continue whisking for 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture is quite thick and nearly holds peaks. Fold in flour quickly.
Step 3Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer emerges dry when inserted in the middle of cake. Cool on a rack. (It's best to make the cake a day in advance.)
Step 4Make the syrup: Simmer sugar, 1/2 cup water and the lemon zest over medium heat for 10 minutes. Cool, stir in grappa and set aside.
Step 5Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk together ricotta and sugar to a spreadable consistency.
Step 6Slice cake into 4 thin layers. Put 1 layer on a cake platter. Paint generously with syrup and spread with a quarter of the ricotta filling. Repeat with remaining 3 layers, stacking as you go. Smooth top layer of ricotta cream.
Step 7Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. Keep refrigerated until an hour before serving.
Step 8To serve, toss berries with sugar and lemon juice. Let macerate no more than 10 minutes, then spoon berries over cake.