Sponge Cake with Chocolate Icing (Cassata Alla Siciliana)


8 - 10 servings
1 Fresh Madeira (pound) cake, about 23 cm (9 in) long by 7 1/2 cm (3 in) wide
1/2 kg (1 lb) Ricotta cheese
2 Tbs Double (heavy) cream
50 g (2 oz) 1/4 cup Sugar
2 Tbs Orange-flavoured liqueur
2 Tbs Chopped mixed candied fruit
1 Tbs Chopped pistachio nuts
50 g (2 oz) 2 squares Dark cooking (semi-sweet) chocolate, grated

for the icing

350 g (12 oz) 12 cut into small pieces squares Dark cooking (semi-sweet) chocolate,
175 ml (6 fl oz) 3/4 cup Black coffee
225 g (8 oz) 16 Tbs Unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled


1. Cut the cake, lengthways, into 1 cm (1/2 in) slices.

2. Using the back of a wooden spoon, rub the ricotta through a strainer into a bowl, then beat until it is smooth. Beat in the cream, sugar and liqueur. Fold in the candied fruit, pistachios and grated chocolate.

3. Put the bottom cake slice on a flat serving plate and spread it evenly with a fairly thick layer of the ricotta mixture. Cover with another slice of cake on top and spread with the ricotta mixture. Continue making layers in this way until all the ingredients are used up, ending with a slice of cake on top. Gently press the 'loaf together. Wrap the cake in foil and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours, or until the filling is set and firm.

4. Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and beat in the butter, a piece at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the icing to a bowl and allow to cool until it reaches a thick, spreading consistency.

5. Reserve a little icing for decoration, then cover the top and sides of the cake with the remainder, swirling it on with a flat-bladed knife. Fill a piping bag with the reserved icing and pipe it decoratively over the top and sides Cover the cake loosely with foil and chill in the refrigerator for 12 hours before serving.

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