Either layered with rich ricotta cream that tastes like cannoli cream or filled with sweet custard and syrupy strawberries like a birthday cake version of a strawberry shortcake Cassata cake is a Sicilian specialty adopted as a Cleveland favorite. Both variations delicious and both consume the food memories from my childhood making my mouth water just thinking of the dessert.
The version I have creates is modified from the New York Times and mirrors the cannoli cream version. The recipe has been spiked with warm spices and a citrus zing to make the strawberries sing and the sponge cake more dynamic!
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes
Yield: 1; 8-inch round or 10; 8-ounce canning jars layered as mini trifles
Prepare an 8-inch diameter springform pan by spraying with cooking spray and lightly dusting with flour.
Heat oven to 350°F degrees.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar, lemon zest, salt, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract and continue whisking for 10 minutes, until mixture is quite thick and nearly holds peaks. Fold in flour quickly.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer emerges dry when inserted in the middle of cake. Cool on a rack. (It’s best to make the cake a day in advance.)
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small food processor fitted with a blade pulse together ricotta and sugar until it is a spreadable consistency.
Slice cake into 4 thin layers. Put 1 layer on a cake platter. Option to paint generously with a simple syrup and/or spread with a quarter of the ricotta filling. Repeat with the remaining 3 layers, stacking as you go. Smooth top layer of ricotta cream with an off-set spatula.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. Keep refrigerated until an hour before serving.
To serve, toss berries with sugar and lemon juice. Let macerate no more than 10 minutes, then spoon berries over cake.
Rad Remix: Make mini trifles in 8-ounce canning jars. Layer cake, strawberries, and ricotta cream in the jar and for added eye-appeal make a batch of Whipped Cream Frosting by beating 2 cups/240 grams softened cream cheese, 1 cup/125 grams powdered sugar until smooth and then mix on medium-high speed, slowly add 1 teaspoon/4.2 grams pure vanilla extract and 2 cups/462 grams cold heavy whipping cream until the frosting forms stiff peaks and resembles whipped cream. Pipe on mini trifles with a star tip.