I have always found it amusing that in France basic sponge cake is called genoise, meaning in the style of Genoa, yet in Italy it is known a pan di spagna, or Spanish bread. Alas, we Americans are less romantic and call it sponge or sheet cake. The delicate cake and fresh ricotta filling are not overpowered by the rich chocolate frosting.
Cassata can be made several hours ahead of time, even the day before. Keep it refrigerated and let it warm to room temperature before serving.
For the cake, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt together in a mixer bowl and set it over very hot water. Whisk by hand until the sugar is dissolved, then beat with an electric mixer until it forms a slowly dissolving ribbon on the batter when the beater is lifted. Sift the flour and cinnamon over the batter, add the orange zest and vanilla, and gently fold until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
For the filling, beat the cheese, cream, sugar, and crème de cacao in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add the orange peel, chocolate, and cinnamon and mix until blended.
To assemble the cassata, line the bottom and sides of a 9 by
For the icing, put the chocolate and coffee in the top of a double boiler and heat over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in both butters. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of frosting.
Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Whip the cooled icing until thick and fluffy, then spread over the top and sides of the cake. Cut the cake into 1-inch-thick slices and serve at room temperature.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.