Cassata Alian Sicilian
makes one 9-inch cake, 10 servings
Sponge Cake Layers
2 cups bleached cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
8 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Rum Soaking Syrup
2 cups granulated sugary
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup rum
Cannoli Cream Filling
3/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shaved chocolate
3 pounds ricotta cheese
1/2 cup toasted almonds, toasted
1/2 tsp orange zest
In a saucepan, slowly whisk 1 cup of the milk into the cornstarch. Whisk until smooth. Let sit about 20 minutes.Add the remaining milk and sugar to the milk-starch and stir over a low heat. Continue stirring until it is thick and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the filling to avoid "skin" and allow to cool to room temperature. Add the ricotta cheese, cinnamon, shaved chocolate, almonds, and orange zest to the the cornstarch.
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 Tb. cold water
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray, line them with parchment paper, then grease the parchment.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until very light and pale yellow in color and doubled in volume. Beat in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted butter. Transfer the egg mixture to a large, clean mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredient-quickly and lightly, stopping just before they are fully incorporated. Clean the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.
Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt in the cleaned bowl of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter quickly and lightly, incorporate any streaks of dry ingredients that remain.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, rap the pans against the counter top to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown, a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully unmold and set them out to cool on a a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the rum syrup: In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and rum. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the contents to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Assembling the cake: Have ready a 9-inch springform pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully split each cake layer in half horizontally to make four layers. Place one of the layers in the bottom of the pan and, using a pastry brush, moisten it generously and evenly with some of the rum syrup. Spread the cake layer evenly with one third of the ricotta mixture. Repeat twice with another cake layer, more of the rum syrup, and another third of the ricotta mixture. Place the final cake layer on top and generously brush with the rum syrup. Wrap the springform pan tightly in plastic wrap; this helps the layers fit snugly on top of each other. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Whipped Cream Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks. Meanwhile, heat the water in the microwave until warm. Sprinkle the gelatin over top. Let cool. Slowly pour the gelatin in one steady stream over the whipped cream and continue to whip until firm.
Decorate your cake with the whipped cream and return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.