Cassata “Romaneasca”

my new easter favourite dessert

My new dessert love – move over trifle.

One of the best things about Sicily (and there are many ) is its over the top uber sweet desserts courtesy of its Arab rulers. Think candied citrus peel and fruits, cannoli, torrone  and a deep obsession with modelling things out of “martorana” the local almond paste.

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Marzipan “fruit”

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Marzipan “red mullet”. 

 I think well leave it there – you get the idea.  Credits to  www.siciliangodmother.com   an absorbing read

And so I turned to one of my favourite baking booksfor the real deal on “cassata siciliana”

“Bitter Almonds” Recollections and recipes from a Sicilian girlhood, about Maria whose family were too poor to look after her, so she was sent to the nuns, where she learnt to bake, and then she set up her own little bakery. Unsurprisingly the recipes have a sparsity and no nonsense approach that makes them easy to follow and indeed in her “Cassata siciliana” the pan di spagna is not soaked in Marsala for example. 

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and for good measure checked in with David Lebovitz who has a pretty good version of the real deal here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/06/making-cassata-alla-siciliana-ricotta-cake/ 

david Lebovitz cassata siciliana

So I made a cassata siciliana and while I quite like making a “Pan di Spagna” and home made marzipan and icing, I suspect that most people dont have the time nor have ready access to a dazzling line up of candied fruits.  Time to adapt and think about some  local ingredients and a speedy version ….  here is what I came up with…

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Line your “cozonac” tin with cling film and then line it with tiramisu sponge fingers pre-dipped in “Tamaioasa Romaneasca” syrup. There was a bit of quality control nibbling going on here. 

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Oh I forgot to say, in the syrup you should plump up your dried fruit of choice – here I had some cranberris, apricots, candied ginger, raisins and then I added some pistachios.

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Who needs ricotta when you have Buffalo sour cream?  The sour cream must be the “knife stands up in it” type of real deal stuff.  I’ve also made with really good sour cream from a local farm and it was also great…look for 25/30% fat content minimum. 

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Fill the lined tin with the sour cream/ fruit and yes chooped up dark chocolate mixture

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Fold over the bits of sponge fingers that will be standing a bit taller over the tin and fill the middle with extra sponge fingers. 

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Wrap it all up snugly and refrigerate overnight.  If you are rushed you can cheat and put it in the freezer for 2-3 hours.

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Unwrap the top of the clingfilm. place a long plate over the top. Invert. Lift off the tin. Now peel off the clingfilm.  Its really that easy.  All you have to do now is adorn with fresh fruit.   Its a recipe that is great for personalising and using seasonal fruits. It doesn’t require any cooking. I reckon that you could replace the alcoholic syrup with jelly and make a kid friendly version too. 

Cassata Romaneasca
Serves 8
No cook dessert thats great for any special occasion
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Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 packet of Tiramisu sponge fingers;
  2. 250ml "Tamaioasa Romaneasca" sweet wine plus 100g fructose;
  3. 650g "Smantana" (Sour Cream) minimum 25% fat content;
  4. Grated zest and juice of 1 orange;
  5. 200g of assorted dried fruits - I like to use cranberries, raisins, apricots and crystallised ginger;
  6. 50g chocolate chips or chopped up dark chocolate;
  7. 50g chopped pistachios or walnuts;
  8. 40g fructose;
  9. fresh fruit to serve
Instructions
  1. This is really a bit of a cheats cake to be honest...it doesn't require any real cooking, merely assembling...just the thing to make when you are busy.
  2. Make a syrup by boiling the wine, the orange juice and the fructose with the dried fruits in the wine. Let it cool although I confess when in a hurry Ive made it with scorching hot syrup which does ensure you dip the fingers in the syrup for only the briefest second.
  3. Line a 1kg bread or "cozonac" tin with cling film first. Now line it with sponge fingers briefly dippped in the syrup so they do not get so soggy that they disintegrate.Try and make sure there are no gaps.
  4. Make the filling by mixing together the sour cream, the chopped chocolate, the nuts and the fructose and the orange zest.
  5. Fill the lined tin.
  6. Fold over the fingers and place an extra couple on top. Wrap up with cling film and refrigerate overnight. (you could comfortably leave it for two days making it a perfect make in advance dish)
  7. To serve, unwrap the top of the clingfilm. Place a large plate on top. Invert. Take away the tin. Peel off the plastic and sprinkle with icing sugar if you feel like it and serve with fresh fruit.
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