Monday, December 20, 2010

Cassata Siciliana by author Giovanna Bellia La Marca

At the beginning of the month, the extended Hippocrene family got together to celebrate the 87th birthday of George Blagowidow, our President and Publisher. George founded Hippocrene Books 40 years ago, and the number of languages and cultures represented in our catalogue is a reflection of his own travels and multilinguistic talents. After singing "Happy Birthday" in English, Polish and Russian, we enjoyed a fabulously sweet and moist Cassata Siciliana made by Giovanna Bellia La Marca, author of Sicilian Feasts.

"This party cake is best made one day ahead and allowed to well absorb the marsala wine; although it can also be made and served the same day," Giovanna notes.  Having tasted the results of a day of soaking, I say: be patient! The candied fruits are colorful and festive, and combined with the size of the cake, it makes a beautiful centerpiece for a party of ten or more.

Happy Holidays from Hippocrene Books!

Cassata Siciliana (Sicilian Cake)
adapted from Sicilian Feasts, page 159

Author's Note: Instead of self rising flour you can use unbleached flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Also, to make a smaller cake to serve 8 to 12 people cut all ingredients in half and follow the above directions baking the layers in 9 inch pans.

Cake Batter

12 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups self rising flour
2 tsps vanilla

1. Separate the eggs, add one cup of sugar and vanilla to the yolks and set aside. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy, and add the sugar gradually until you have a thick meringue.

2. Without washing the beaters, start beating the yolks with the sugar until you have a stiff meringue. Fold the flour into the yolks alternately with about 1/3 of the meringue until all the flour has been incorporated into the yolks.

3. Fold the remainder of the meringue into the batter. Divide the batter among three 12 1/2 inch metal springform pans with removable bottoms, which have been well sprayed with food release*, and bake in a preheated 350┬║ oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling and Frosting

3 lbs fresh ricotta from an Italian Deli
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup small chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped citron
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 cups marsala wine
1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 piece of citron, sliced thinly
1 whole candied orange peel sliced thinly
4 ounces each candied red and green cherries
1 candied pear, sliced
3 whole candied cherries, or 3 candied figs for the center decoration

Assembly of Cake

1. Beat the ricotta with the sugar until very smooth. Remove one cup of ricotta to a bowl and set aside.

2. Divide the remainder of the ricotta between 2 bowls. Add chocolate chips and cinnamon to one bowl and chopped citron to the other.

3. Take 2 squares of wax paper or parchment paper and cut each in half to make 4 triangles. Place the first cake layer on a serving platter, and slip the four paper triangles just under the cake to keep the serving platter clean.

4.Pour the marsala wine in a spray bottle, and spray 1/3 of the marsala on the first layer. Spread the chocolate ricotta filling on top right to the edge of the cake. Place the second layer on top of the chocolate filling, spray the cake with marsala, then spread the ricotta and citron filling on the cake, top with the last layer, and spray with marsala.

5. Let rest for 15 minutes while you mix the frosting by adding the confectioner’s sugar to
the reserved cup of ricotta and beating until smooth.

6. Using an offset spatula, cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Frost the side of the cake, and spread another layer of frosting on top to make a smooth white surface. Carefully press the sliced almonds on the side of the cake. Decorate the top by making circles of candied fruit on top of the cake starting with the outside edge and alternating the colors of the cherries and other fruits and the shapes of the sliced citron and candied orange peel.

7. Very carefully pull out the wax or parchment paper on the base of the platter, and refrigerate or place in a cool place until read to serve.

*The most reliable food release is Ever-Bake Canola Oil Food Release available at King Arthur Flour, Norwich, Vermont.