Italians Know Their Cake!
|***UPDATED with Whipped Cream/Cream Cheese frosting recipe below***|
Well this is going to be the quickest blog post I've ever written. Life is pretty chaotic lately!
Our lil group of baking friends got together on Skype again this past Sunday and baked one of the prettiest cakes I've ever made! We even had a guest baker who was a joy to meet, Hi Halley! :)
I have to thank Ivonne, Ben, John, Helene, Steph, Marce, Chris and Mary for indulging me this time around by baking an Italian Cassata cake. I've never made this cake before but have been DYING to do it.. and bless their cotton socks, they all agreed. Ivonne provided this exceptional recipe from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano cookbook. I must say, if the rest of the recipes are this delightful then this is a book I need to purchase in the very near future. :)
Everything went along without a hitch, which is refreshing after the last baking disaster I went through... (stay tuned for that lil gem!). The sponge was a lil disconcerting as the batter, before the egg whites are introduced, is very stiff - almost doughy. So folding delicate egg whites wasn't the easiest of tasks. But it all came together eventually and my cakes baked up light and fluffy.
The filling was super easy to put together and if anyone would dream of having a doubt, I doubled the chocolate called for in it. Me no get chocolate anymore *sniff* so when I do.. I double it. :P I left the nuts out of this cake. I'm not a huge nut fan and I knew some of this was going to my mommy and she can't eat nuts. Didn't make much of a difference in flavor, I'm sure. The filling did have the consistency of cannoli filling and it was very good - I just kind of wished that the chocolate would have been maybe melted into the cheese or even a cocoa powder used to flavor it. I don't know.. I've never been a fan of lil slivers/bits of chocolate in a filling - it seems like it's there for texture moreso than chocolate flavor and OHMYGOD I'MSOSURE chocolate was NOT meant as a textural ingredient for crissakes.
Sorry.. lil protective of the chocolate over here.
Other than the omission of the nuts, I made one other change and that was using a different frosting recipe. I didn't like the sounds of this cake with a glaze - every Cassata I've ever had was covered in a whipped cream frosting. So Mary passed along a recipe she had found that was a combination of whipped cream and cream cheese and it was just delicious. I don't have that recipe in front of me at this time, but will update this post as soon as I can with it. :)
Anyhoo, this cake put together is gorgeous and truly tasty. I urge you to give it a whirl.. if you like Cassata cake and/or Cannoli, I'm pretty darned sure you'll like this recipe. :)
FOR THE SPONGE CAKES
2 cups bleached cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
8 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
FOR THE RUM SYRUP
2 cups granulated sugary
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup rum
FOR THE FILLIMG
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup shelled whole unsalted pistachios
3 cups fresh, whole-milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated zest of 2 medium oranges
FOR THE ICING
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and
cooled, for garnish
Maraschino or amarena cherries, for garnish(optional)
Candied orange zest, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray, line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment.
To make the sponge cakes: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg yolks with the sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted burte: Transfer the egg mixture to a large, clean mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredient-quickly and lightly, using a rubber spatula, stopping just before they are fully incorporated. Clean the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.
Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt in the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until the-form firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter quickly and lightly; this will also incorporate any streaks of dry ingredients that remain.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully rum them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the rum syrup: In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and rum. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and allow the syrup to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Next, prepare the filling: Using a microplane or box grater, grate the chocolate into fine, feathery shreds. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the pistachios. Place the ricotta, confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat until the ricotta is creamy and soft. Add the grated chocolate, chopped pistachios, and orange zest and beat just until combined.
To assemble the cassata: Have ready a 9-inch springform pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully split each cake layer in half horizontally to make four layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and, using a pastry brush, moisten it generously and evenly with some of the rum syrup. Spread the cake layer evenly with one third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice with another cake layer, more of the rum syrup, and another third of the ricotta mixture. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the rum syrup. Wrap the springform pan tightly in plastic wrap; this helps the layers fit snugly on top of each other. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To prepare the icing: Place the sifted confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the egg white and water and beat the ingredients together with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the almond extract.
To finish the cassata: Remove the cassata from the refrigerator and carefully remove the sides of the pan. You may need to run a hot knife around the sides first. You may leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan, or carefully transfer it to a cardboard cake circle with an offset spatula. Place the cake on a wire rack to ice it; you can place some parchment or wax paper underneath to catch any drips.
Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Scatter the toasted almonds over the top and let the cake sit until the icing sets. Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.
Before serving, carefully transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand, and, if desired, decorate the cassata with maraschino or amarena cherries and some strips of candied orange zest.
Yesssss.. this is the fourth photo of the same slice of cake still just sitting on the plate not doing much but looking pretty.. :P
Leftovers should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 additional day.
Whipped Cream/Cream Cheese Frosting
1.5 cups of heavy cream
1 tsp gelatin dissolved in 2 TBS water
1 cup 10X sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz of cream cheese, softened
Combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. beat until smooth. Melt gelatin in water and add to whipped cream at soft peak stage. Continue to whip until stiff and then gently fold into cream cheese mixture. I took about 1/3 of the whipped cream and stirred it into the cream cheese mixture to loosen the cream cheese up and then I folded the rest of the whipped cream in gently in two additions.
(thanks for reminding me, Tina!) :)