Saturday, January 01, 2005

Cassata - Sicilian Rum Cream Cake

This dessert recipe is probably the most decadent dessert I have ever eaten or made. Just looking at the finished product, will cause serious weight gain, but IS IT EVER WORTH IT!!!

Here we go! There are five parts to building this structure: Spongecake, Rum Syrup, Ricotta Filling, Chocolate Ricotta Filling, and finally Assembly. (Whipped Cream NOT included!)


7 eggs
1 Cup confectioners Sugar
1 Cup Sifted Cake Flour
1 TBS Grated Lemon Peel
1 TBS Sweet Vermouth

1 pound crushed pistacio nuts (optional)

Separate eggs and bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two(2) round cake tins, and dust with confectioner's sugar.

Add 1 cup confectioner's sugar to egg yolks; beat at high speed until thick and lemon colored. Add grated lemon peel, flour, and vermouth. Beat at low speed until well combined.

Beat egg whites stiff. Fold half the beaten egg whites into yolk mixture until well combined. Fold in remaining egg whites until just combined. Turn into buttered cake tins. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and remove to rack.

Rum Syrup

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 Orange Slices
2 Lemon Slices
1 Cup Water
2/3 Cups golden rum.

Combine sugar, water, orange and lemon slices in sauce pan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil gently - uncovered - for 20 minutes. Discard fruit slices; stir in rum, cover and set aside.

Ricotta Cheese Filling

1 Lb. Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mini chocolate bits
1 TBS rum
1/2 Cup Confectioner's sugar
1 Small jar of mixed, candied fruit (citron).

Combine cheese and sugar; beat for 3 minutes. Stir in chocolate bits and chopped candied citron.

Chocolate Cheese Filling

Remove 1 cup of the above cheese filling to a small bowl and stir in melted chocolate 2-TBS of bits - until well blended. Refrigerate both fillings.


1 Jar of seedless raspberry jam

Split each cake layer in half, as for a torte. Place cut side up on a large plate.

Drizzle 1/2 cup rum syrup. Spread with plain cheese filling. Spread raspberry jam on second layer and place jam side down on other layer. Drizzle 1/2 cup rum syrup and spread with chocolate cheese filling. Add third layer cut side up. Drizzle 1/2 cup rum syrup and spread with remaining plain cheese filling. Spread jam over cut side of fourth layer. Place jam side down over cheese layer. Drizzle on remaining rum syrup.

Spread top and sides of cake with thick whipped cream, and garnish with candied cherry halves, or marachino cherries that have been well-drained and dried. If you have the patience, you can add crushed pistacio nuts to the sides if the cake. Refrigerate for 4-hours before serving.

Fig and Date Filled Cookies

Goes great with espresso or just plain ol' coffee.

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk

1 package dates
1 package figs
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 orange peel grated
1/2 cup mini chocolate bits
2/3 cup honey
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Put the dates, raisins and figs through a food chopper, then combine remaining ingredients.

For Dough, cream butter; add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat until light. Add sifted flour, baking powder, salt, and milk and mix well. Chill several hours or overnight.

Roll dough thin on a floured cutting board or counter, and cut into 2 1/2 inch squares. (Good place to use a hand crank pasta maker.) Put 1 tsp of the filling in the center of the square, and roll up -tucking the ends on the bottom. Seal edges tight. Brush with beaten egg white and a little water. Bake in 350F oven until slightly browned - about 12-15 minutes.

Classic Minestrone Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, with leaves, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, with juice
1 box of frozen spinach
1 large can Italian white beans or Great Northern

5 cups beef or vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely
chopped parsley
1 cup extra-finely sliced, then roughly chopped cabbage
2 zucchini, unpeeled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ditalini (little tiny macaroni)

Garnish: Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Sautee the onion and celery in the oil until wilted, toss in garlic and stir for a minute, then add cut-up tomatoes and cook down for about 10 minutes to concentrate flavors. Stir in beef stock, reserved tomato juice, and beans and bring to a boil. Add half the parsley, lower heat, and cook for about 30 minutes.

Add cabbage, zucchini, spinach, and ditalini and cook at a gentle boil until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir in the rest of the parsley, maybe sprinkle in some more minced garlic. Season to taste and grate in some Parmesan or Romano.

Dessert Cannoli

I recommend making the dough, wrapping it in waxed paper and chilling for 24 hours.

To make the dough, sift the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid inside. Little by little, stir the dry ingredients into the liquid until all the liquid is absorbed. Knead the dough for five minutes to ensure that it is smooth. This is a fairly stiff dough. Wrap and chill dough overnight.

Now comes the fun part. With a rolling pin, roll dough to about 3/16 inch thick. Make sure the dough and table are well floured. The dough will probably spring back a lot. If this happens, let the dough rest for ten minutes and then come back to it and roll again. We have an adjustable
hand crank pasta maker that works well for this. Adjust the rollers to a thinner setting each time you put the dough through the rollers.

Once the dough is the proper thickness, cut circles with a 3" round cutter. Next you'll need cannoli tubes. These are metal tubes approximately 5" long and 3/4" in diameter, and come in a package of 6 or 12. You can get them at a good culinary store, perhaps the Pastry Chef: The old Sicilians used to use a wooden dowel or broom handle cut to size.

Take a circle of dough and wrap it around the tube, but not tightly. The dough should be slack around the tube, because it needs room to puff when it deep fries. Moisten one edge of the dough and press the two overlapping edges together.

Deep fry the shells in 375F oil until light golden brown. Remove from oil and let cool a couple of minutes. Slide the shells off the tube. Voila! You have a cannoli shell. This pastry is very delicate and breaks easily, so be careful when stuffing them.


3 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
3 TBS Shortening
2 Eggs well beaten
2 TBS White vinegar
2 TBS Cold water
¼ Cup Tangerine liquor

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in shortening to pieces the size of peas. Turn dough on to a floured counter and knead to smooth. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30-minutes. or more.

You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin, but I find the best method is using a hand-crank pasta maker. Roll first on the widest setting (5) and then in increments all the way to setting (1).

FILLING (for 20)

1-1/2 lbs ricotta cheese
1 -1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 Cup chocolate shavings or mini-chocolate bits
1 TBS orange or lemon zest
1/2 Cup Chopped candied citron (Optional)

Unless you have purchased DRY ricotta, DRAIN THE RICOTTA IN CHEESECLOTH for 2-3 days before making the filling!! Mix well by hand with a wooden spoon. If the ricotta has been drained, use your mixer and the beaters. If you use the beaters and the ricotta has NOT been drained, you will end up with "soup!"

Stuff the shells with filling, being careful not to break them. An iced tea spoon works well here. Arrange on a large serving plate, and then dust with confectioner’s sugar. A demitasse cup of espresso or a dry Marsala wine is the perfect accompaniment.