Cassata alla Siciliana

Layered Spongecake Filled with Ricotta, Chocolate, and Orange

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Mediterranean Kitchen

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 1998

  • About

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.


Sponge Cake

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ricotta Filling

  • pounds fresh ricotta cheese, passed through a medium sieve
  • tablespoons heavy cream
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons crème de cacao
  • 5 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied orange peel
  • 7 tablespoons coarsely grated semisweet chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon


  • ¾ pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup strong brewed coffee
  • ¼ cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup crème de cacao


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and line a 15½ by 10½-inch jelly-roll pan with baker’s parchment.

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. Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the side, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan.

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 5-inch loaf pan with baker’s parchment and butter the paper. Turn the cake out of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Cut crosswise into thirds and trim the strips to fit inside the pan. Brush the strips lightly with crème de cacao. Place one cake strip in the bottom of the pan, liqueur-soaked side up, and spread with half the filling. Lay a second cake strip over the filling and spread with the remaining filling. Top with the third cake strip. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

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.