- Hands-on time:
- 25 mins. to 40 mins.
- Baking time:
- 1 hrs 5 mins. to 1 hrs 10 mins.
- Total time:
- 3 hrs 15 mins. to 3 hrs 35 mins.
- 8 to 12 servings
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.
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, preferably at room temperature for easiest mixing
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional, to enhance chocolate flavor
- 2/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1) To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. 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 210°F to 215°F, while just under the top will register about 198°F to 200°F.
- 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.
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.