Casata | cbc life

A decorative cake with yellow sponge cake and green marzipan alternating along the sides and candied fruit arranged in a floral design on top.
(Photo by George Geoff)

This version of the Sicilian cassata is made with pistachio marzipan, sponge cake soaked in rum syrup, and sweet ricotta filling. It’s garnished with royal icing, as well as candied clementine, cherries, and other sugary fruits—celebratory decorations that would be welcome at any festive gathering.

Cassata was the technical bake for the season 6 finale of The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Casata

special equipment

Ingredients

Biscuit:

  • cooking spray
  • 8 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1⅓ cups (240g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt

Pistachio marzipan:

  • 2⅓ cups (200g) almond flour
  • 1¾ cups (200 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • ⅓ cup (75g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons pistachio paste
  • green gel food coloring

Filling:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 cans (500 g) ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (95 g) mini chocolate chips

Syrup:

  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ¾ cup white rum
  • 1 (3-inch) strip orange zest
  • 1 strip of lemon zest (3 inches)

Glazed cherries:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries
  • 1 cup (200 g) pitted maraschino cherries, stems removed

Candied lime and clementine slices:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 clementine, cut crosswise into thin slices, ends removed
  • 1 lime, cut crosswise into thin slices, ends removed

Candied orange and lemon peel:

  • 2 small oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of water

Ice formation:

  • 8 cups (900g) icing sugar
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder

Assembly:

Preparation

Biscuit:

Heat oven to 350 F. Line a three-quart (15 by 21-inch) pan with parchment paper and spray sides of pan and parchment with cooking spray.

Add the eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then increase speed to high and gradually add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy and the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together the flour and salt.

Remove bowl from stand mixer. Sprinkle a third of the flour over the egg mixture, then beat gently until smooth. Repeat with the rest of the flour in two additions. (The dough will deflate a bit.) Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until the top is dry and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25 minutes.

Run a paring knife around the edge of the hot cake, place the pan on a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan along with parchment and transfer to wire rack to cool. Once cool to the touch, dust the top with icing sugar, invert the cake onto the back of a three-quarter pan, and remove the parchment paper. Trim the edges.

Pistachio marzipan:

In a large bowl, mix the almond flour and sugars. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg and pistachio paste. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until a fluffy dough forms.

Turn the marzipan over onto a clean counter and knead to bring it together, dusting with icing sugar if it sticks to the surface. Add two to three drops of the gel food coloring with a toothpick and knead into a smooth dough. Wrap with plastic wrap and reserve.

Filling:

Add the sugar and ricotta to a large bowl and mix until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Drain off any excess liquid. Mix together the citrus zest, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips and set aside.

Syrup:

Combine all the ingredients except the rum in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the zest, add the rum and let cool.

Assembly:

Drizzle a small amount of oil on the surface of the cassata pan. Wipe off excess with a paper towel, leaving only a thin layer. Dust the pan with icing sugar.

Transfer the cooled cake to a large cutting board. Using a knife and the bottom of the cassata pan as a guide, cut a circle out of the middle of the pie.

Cut the other half of the cake into long strips, 2½ inches wide (or about the height of your cassata pan). Then cut the strips into multiple trapezoids, measuring 1 inch on one side and 4 inches on the other. You will need enough to go around the sides of the cassata casserole. Reserve the remains of the cake for the bottom of the cassata.

Three side by side interlocking trapezoids with a height of 2.5 inches.  The widest width of each trapezoid is 4 inches and the narrowest width is 1 inch.
*Image not to scale (CBC Life)

Dust a smooth work area with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan so that it is ¼-inch thick. Cut out seven trapezoids with the same measurements you used for the cake. (You will have leftover marzipan).

Place the sponge circle in the bottom of the cassata pan with the icing sugar side up. Place a cake trapezoid against the side of the pan, icing sugar side in and the 4-inch end at the bottom of the pan. Place a marzipan trapezoid next to the cake trapezoid, reversing the orientation so the 1-inch end is in the bottom of the pan. Repeat with the rest of the cake and the marzipan trapezoids, alternating to make a pattern. Try to align the edges as much as possible. Then, cover each piece of marzipan with a sponge trapezoid so that only the cake is showing.

Generously brush the cake with the syrup. Pour the filling into the lined cassata pan and smooth with a small offset spatula. Use kitchen shears to trim any excess cake or marzipan above the edge of the pan.

Cover the filling with the remains of the sponge (this will be the bottom of the cassata) and brush with more syrup.

Place a 12-inch round cake board on top of the cassata, then place a quarter sheet pan on top and place a weight on top. Chill the cassata in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Glazed cherries:

Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat a wire rack with cooking spray and place inside skillet.

Bring the sugar, water, and cherry syrup to a boil over medium heat. Add the cherries and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the fruit is covered with the thick syrup, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cherries to a section of the prepared rack, keeping them apart so they don’t stick together and leaving room for the other candied fruit.

Candied lime and clementine slices:

Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the clementine and lime slices. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the marrow has softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the fruit to the rack prepared with the cherries, keeping them apart so they don’t stick together.

Candied orange and lemon peel:

Using a paring knife, slice the orange peels from top to bottom, dividing them into quarters. Then remove the shell and reserve the meat for another use. Cut the peels into long, thin strips. Repeat with the lemons. Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the orange and lemon zest. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the marrow has softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the shell to the prepared rack, keeping them apart so they don’t stick together.

Ice formation:

Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. With mixer on low speed, gradually add ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of water. Beat on low speed until the water is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until frosting is smooth and fluid. Transfer half of the mixture (500g) to a medium saucepan and add the remaining ¼ cup of water. Mix until combined and set aside. Add the meringue powder to the remaining frosting in the bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluid, 2 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a fine round tip and set aside.

Decor:

Set a rack in a 1/2 sheet pan and place an 8-inch cake pan on top, bottom side up.

Remove the weight of the cassata and invert the cassata onto the upside down cake pan. Remove cassata pan. Brush the excess icing sugar from the marzipan.

Place saucepan with glaze over low heat to thin, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour it over the cassata and spread it around the sides with a slanted spatula to get a thin layer. When the frosting has set (chill if necessary), the cake is ready to decorate.

To make a candied fruit flower, place a slice of clementine in the center of the cake and fold strips of orange zest around it to make petals, placing the glazed cherries in the middle. Place a cherry on top of the clementine. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining candied fruit as desired.

Pipe royal icing on top and sides of cake to decorate as desired. You can make dots, zigzags, watermarks or curved lines, for example. Transfer the cassata to a serving plate.

makes a cake

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