Lauren Katz is a trained pastry chef who never skips dessert. Here’s her recipe for a no-fuss twist on a cassata cake.
Traditional Italian Cassata cake is a super light cake layered with fruit syrup, dried fruit and ricotta whipped cream. I grew up in Cleveland, where we had our own (now famous) version of Cassata cake, that replaces the dried fruit with fresh strawberries and the ricotta cream with custard.
To create my ideal summer dessert I took elements of both recipes, and turned them into a deconstructed (read: low-maintenance) trifle. While strawberries are traditional in Northeast Ohio, any berry would be just wonderful. I used fresh blackberries, but feel free to swap in your favorite summer fruit.
For the cake
- 1 Cup cake flour (or 1 cup minus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 6 Eggs, divided
- 1 Cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ Cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ Lbs fresh fruit (blackberries, diced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pitted cherries or diced peaches)
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Ricotta Whipped Cream
- 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Cups ricotta cheese
- 1 Cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 2-3 tsp lemon zest
Prepare the cake
- Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or softened butter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Place the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Beat on high for 4 to 6 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
- Place the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, vegetable oil, and lemon zest in the stand mixer bowl (no need to wipe it out). Whisk on medium for 1 to 2 minutes, or until thoroughly combined and the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the speed to low and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until no dry streaks remain.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a spatula, fold in half the beaten egg whites until combined. Add the remaining beaten egg whites and gently fold them into the batter just until the mixture is uniform.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake, rotating the baking dish halfway through, 18 to 22 minutes, or until browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
The cake can be made 1 day in advance and stored at room temperature.
Prepare the macerated fruit
- About 20 minutes before assembling combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl. Set aside to macerate, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the ricotta whipped cream
- Place the ricotta, whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Whisk on medium-low, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whisk for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. At the last minute, add the lemon zest and whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Tear the cake into large chunks. In a trifle dish, baking dish, or large bowl, add enough of the cake chunks to cover the bottom. Add a layer of macerated berries, then a layer of ricotta whipped cream. Repeat layering until you reach the top (or run out of ingredients), ending with whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day before serving. Enjoy!
For more of Lauren’s creations, check out this icebox cake.