Chocolate Cassata

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Hands-on time:
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Yield: 8 to 12 servings

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The traditional version of this Sicilian dessert, often served at Easter, is made from a light-textured sponge cake stuffed with rum-ricotta filling laced with candied orange peel. Here we provide a version more suited to most Americans' taste: dense chocolate cake, filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate chips, and iced with creamy fudge frosting.

Chocolate Cassata

star rating (14) rate this recipe
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Published: 03/23/2011

Ingredients

Cake

Filling

Frosting

  • 1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, preferably at room temperature for easiest mixing
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tips from our bakers

  • As with any cake, refrigeration will dry it out. If not served immediately, this should be refrigerated, and is best served within a day of preparation. When wrapping, stick a couple of skewers or toothpicks into the top, to keep the plastic wrap from sticking to the icing.

Directions

see this recipe's blog

1) To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder, espresso powder, and cocoa to make a sandy, somewhat clumpy mixture. Don't worry; the eggs will smooth things out.

3) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl midway through this process.

4) Add half the flour to the bowl, beating at low speed to combine.

5) Add all of the milk, beating at low speed to combine.

6) Add the remaining flour, beating gently just until the batter is smooth.

7) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

8) Bake the cake for about 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top may look a tiny bit damp; that's OK. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the center will register 210F to 215F, while just under the top will register about 198F to 200F.

9) Remove the cake from the oven, loosen the edges, wait 10 minutes, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

10) Store completely cooled cake well wrapped, at room temperature, until ready to fill and frost.

11) To make the filling: Stir together the ricotta, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

12) To make the frosting: sift the cocoa, confectioners' sugar, and espresso powder into a bowl.

13) Bring the cream to a simmer on the stove or in the microwave, and whisk into the cocoa mixture. At first the mixture will look grainy; continue whisking for a minute. You'll see the lumps disappear as the sugar dissolves and the cocoa hydrates. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

14) Place the butter, salt, and sifted confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl.

15) Beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

16) With the mixer running on low speed, add the cocoa mixture a spoonful at a time until it's all incorporated. Scrape the bowl, then beat at medium speed for 1 minute.

17) To assemble the cake: Split the cake in thirds lengthwise, to make 3 layers. Brush the cut side of each layer with simple syrup or vanilla syrup; this will help keep the cake moist.

18) Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. Spread with half the ricotta filling. Top with the second layer, and spread with the remaining filling. Place the third layer on top.

19) Ice the cake — top and sides — with the frosting.

20) Serve immediately; or refrigerate, well-wrapped, until ready to serve, preferably not longer than 24 hours. Cut in crosswise slices to serve.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Reviews

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  • star rating 04/05/2015
  • Mary from Bangor, Maine
  • I thought this recipe was good but not incredible. I took the suggestion and added a bit of orange extract to the ricotta mixture, which was quite nice. I used a dark cocoa for the cake and the frosting, which gave it a rich chocolate flavor. We didn't find it dry as some reviewers commented. Taking their suggestions, I baked the cake itself the day before and wrapped it overnight. I assembled it early the next morning for serving during Easter dinner later in the day, with the assumption that allowing it to sit (in the refrigerator) would give the ricotta a chance to moisten the layers. It did. That said, the flavor was nothing incredible. My family enjoyed the dessert, but I'm not sure that the number of steps involved justified the time spent. Not certain that I'll make this again as I have other dessert recipes which are just a good but lass labor intensive.
  • star rating 04/04/2015
  • member-srnwpark1 from KAF Community
  • I live in Colorado at almost 9000 feet, so I was a bit nervous about trying cake again after failing several times in the past. I made changes according to KAFs high altitude recommendations and success! I used 1 1/3 c. sugar, 3 extra large eggs (instead of large) plus 2 T egg whites, I added 1 1/2 T more flour, a T more milk, (I figured the extra large eggs also had added more liquid). I used a 9x5 pan to accommodate all the extra volume. I added 15 degrees to the baking temperature, but found I didn't end up taking much time of the total time, I started checking at 60 minutes and took the cake out at 67 minutes, except for a slight crack, it came out beautifully! KAFS high altitude adjustments are the best I have found for bread, and now cake!
  • star rating 04/03/2015
  • ocalajoyce from KAF Community
  • Great recipe. It was an easy recipe but a bit time consuming to make. I did not alter from the recipe at all. The only thing I will change when I make this again is that I will use parchment paper and will butter it as well as part of the cake (just a small part) broke and stuck in the pan. Thankfully, I was able to patch it! Everyone really liked the cake. Not too sweet - just right for my taste. Thank you KAF for this recipe.
  • star rating 10/20/2014
  • CEG from Seattle
  • I just made this over the weekend and it was SO GOOD! I couldn't get ricotta cheese where I live, but I substituted 1/2 marscapone, 1/4 sour cream, 1/4 cream cheese. I would have used all marscapone but the store only had 1 cup available to buy. I think it tasted wonderful! I didn't think the cake was dry, and brushed the layers with frangelico instead of simple syrup. It needs a little decoration to make it look more impressive, but plated it looked beautiful! I will make this again for special occasions, it was delicious and not very hard.
  • star rating 04/21/2014
  • Diane from Michigan
  • I put rum flavoring plus a bit of orange oil in the ricotta filling. I also brushed triple sec on the cake layers. The hint of orange really made the cake. I took it to the Easter dinner, and everyone raved about it! I will definitely make it again.
  • star rating 04/26/2012
  • pocohorse from KAF Community
  • This is an elegant dessert. The filling is nice and not too sweet. The chocolate chips give it a touch of sweetness but does not over power the flavor of the cheese. I used 1/3 cup of black cocoa in the cake and 1/4 of black cocoa in the frosting and it gave both a rich chocolate flavor. The frosting recipe makes plenty of frosting so next time I will reserve some for piping around the bottom. I spirnkled a few more chips on the top for garnish. I also brushed vanilla flavored Cruzan rum on the slices instead of the simple syrup because that's what I had in the house. I might add some coffee flavor or espresso to the cake and filling next time for a coffee/chocolate version. I made the cake on a Tuesday and wrapped well in plastic wrap and finished it on Friday. The cake stayed very moist without drying while left on the counter. This is a nice dessert for company or a special occasion. I will be making this again.
  • star rating 02/04/2012
  • intelligenceisparamount from KAF Community
  • The reason I'm giving this recipe such a high rating is the frosting. The cake and ricotta filling were just ok, kind of blah. But the frosting is that amazing from-a-jar stuff I grew up with, but 1000 times better. It captures every element of sugary, buttery, frosty goodness that I jones for on occasion. So if you're doing something like a traditional yellow cake, this frosting would be heaven to top it with! Note that it will harden in the fridge but a few minutes at room temperature or a few seconds in a microwave will soften it up nicely.
  • star rating 09/07/2011
  • svsamantha from KAF Community
  • For a cake that had such a great flavored batter, the cake was pretty dry, even with additional syrup on the top. I even pulled the cake out before it hit a middle temp of 200 degrees. The icing needed about a cup of the cream to make it smooth and tasted good. I think next time I will just make my favortie chocoalte cake recipe with espresso powder added for flavor and use the filling and icing. We used this for our Labor Day dinner dessert and we were all pretty disappointed.
    We are sorry to hear this recipe didn't work out for you. If you wish to give it a try again, please give us a call at the Baker's Hotline so we can help troubleshoot! ~JDT@KAF
  • star rating 05/04/2011
  • kkaschke from KAF Community
  • I did have one problem with this recipe. The frosting needed more than half a cup of the cream. With only have a cup it was very dry and grainy. I added in probably another 1/2 cup cream and it turned out perfect.
  • star rating 04/24/2011
  • St. John from KAF Community
  • I made the cake on Thursday and made the filling and frosting on Saturday. Sunday morning, I assembled and served it. Wow, it is so good!
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