The Sicilian Cassata (Cassata Siciliana), perhaps the most famous sweet islander, is a layered cake made of sponge cake soaked in liquor, combined with ricotta, fruit and marzipan.
Born in Sicily (Sicilia), cassata has become a traditional Easter dish in all of Italy. Despite the apparent simplicity, a recipe for a unique dessert is in almost every city on the island. But traditional, nevertheless, is considered a cassata from Palermo (Palermo).
Like many dishes with ancient history, the roots of cassata are Sicilian lost in the mists of time. Therefore, the dessert is attributed to different times of birth and the origins of the name, but the homeland remains unchanged. Some of the written evidence of the Kassata cake dates back to the 15th century. But it is not clear how close the medieval dessert is to today’s recipe. In Sicily, it is customary to consider the 14th century as the time of birth of the dish.
Culinary writer Giuliano Bugialli unambiguously ascribes to the name of the cake a Latin origin from the word Caseus, which means “cheese”. Sicilian Abbot Angelo Senisio in 1348 mentions “cassata” in the Sicilian dialect dictionary and defines it as a cake and then as ice cream made from cheese or cacio. The 14th century Tuscan cookbook contains a record of the “casciata” dish made from cheese and beaten eggs. But he can not be considered the ancestor of the Sicilian cassata, as this is clearly not a sweet cake.
Despite such evidence of the Latin origin of the name, the etymologists Aleppo and Calvaruso consider such conclusions far-fetched. For example, the Sicilian-Italian dictionaries of the XVIII and XIX centuries, the term “cassata” is defined as a small box where sweets are stored (the so-called sweet box). Most historians agree that the roots of Kassat lie between the 9th and 11th centuries (the Arab period in Sicily). It was the Arabs who brought sugarcane, almonds and some types of citrus to the island. Legend has it that one night an Arab shepherd decided to mix ricotta with sugar and mistakenly put sweet cheese in a bowl in which there was dough intended for a pie.
In the morning, the cook baked the contents of the container in the oven. Thus was born the first Sicilian cassata, which has survived to this day in a transformed form. The earliest mention of this Sicilian cake is a contract from 1409 for the supply of cassate to a Jew named Sadone Misok.
An interesting fact is that in 1574 the diocese of Mazzara del Vallo forbade the manufacture of Sicilian cassata in monasteries during Holy Week, because “the nuns preferred to eat cake rather than pray.” The first version of the dessert included only three components: ricotta, sugar and shortbread dough. Later, when the Spaniards brought “culinary innovations” to Sicily, the cooks began to use a biscuit and cover the cake with icing. And after 1600, when a new era in Italian art began, the surface of the cassata began to be decorated with candied fruits and baroque fruits.
Sicilian cassata recipe is quite simple, but requires a lot of skills, especially if you are going to decorate it grandly. We will talk about the variations and decorations below, but for now we present to your attention an original recipe for a cake from Palermo.
From kitchen utensils you will need: 1 liter filling bowl; Blender or sieve; Pan with a thick bottom; Rolling pin; Sharp knife; Mixer; Biscuit baking dish; Cake mold (preferably round); Measured dishes. The whole cooking process consists of several stages.
For the filling you will need the following ingredients: 500 g of ricotta; 300 g of sugar; 50 g of chocolate drops; 1 sachet of vanillin.
Ricotta you can not buy. We wrote about how to cook Italian cheese in our article: “How to make ricotta at home – a recipe with a photo.” So, if you cooked fresh cheese, then you must keep it in the refrigerator for at least one night. Add sugar and vanillin to the ricotta and let it brew for about an hour. Grind the mixture with a blender or through a sieve to a smooth, soft consistency and mix it with chocolate drops. The filling is ready and will wait for the remaining parts in the refrigerator.
To make marzipan, you need the components: 250 g almond flour; 250 g of granulated sugar; 150 g of water; Green food coloring. Put a pot of water on a slow fire, pour sugar into it and heat, stirring constantly. When the syrup begins to thicken, pour almond flour and dye and mix until completely dissolved. Then put the dough on a glossy, moistened surface and let cool slightly. Knead the mass with your hands until it becomes smooth and soft. Roll it with a rolling pin to a thickness of 8 mm and cut into rectangles 6 cm wide and a length equal to the height of the selected shape.
For glaze, only 2 ingredients are required: 150 g of sugar; 75 ml. water. Mix sugar with water and simmer until the mass is viscous and transparent. It is important that the frosting is hot.