A cone-shaped pie made of soft sponge cake and a delicious ricotta cream enriched with candied fruit and chocolate drops: the Cassata Siciliana

The Cassata Siciliana is a traditional pie based on sugared ricotta (traditionally sheep), sponge cake, royal pasta, and candied fruit. It is a typical Sicilian product and it has been recognized and included in the list of traditional Italian agri-food products (P.A.T.) of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies. Together with cannoli, almond pastries, and pizzicotti, Cassata, a product of Sicilian pastry-making, and more specifically from Palermo, deserves a special place among the region’s typical desserts. Originally created as an Easter cake, it has now become commonly eaten throughout the year.


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A bit of history

A mix of scents and flavours conquered Palermo between the 9th and 11th centuries, during the Arab domination. It is from the Arab that the name Cassata derives. “Quas’at” means big bowl, the name of the bowl in which the creamy cheese filling was mixed with sugar! The richness of its ingredients reflects the characteristics of Saracen cuisine, which loves to harmonize contrasting flavours, such as sponge cake filled with ricotta cheese mixed with sugar and chocolate pieces.

Not only a Sicilian dessert

Despite the apparent simpleness of the recipe, there are countless local variations: the Palermo variant, the Messina variant (less sweet than the traditional one), the Catanese, the Trapanese, and the Syracuse variant (distinguished by the presence of layers of sponge cake and the absence of icing). Given the many variations, the decoration can vary, especially in appearance. There may be additional ingredients, such as pistachios, pine nuts, chocolate, and cinnamon. The most famous variant of Cassata is the Neapolitan one. It differs from the Sicilian version in several ways: first of all, it is made of sponge cake cut in half and soaked in Strega liqueur. This version is also characterized by a larger quantity of sweetened ricotta (cow’s milk cheese). The Neapolitan cassata is also entirely covered with fondant sugar and the decorations are much simpler.


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The original recipe


  • 3 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • 160 gr sugar
  • 70 g plain flour
  • 95 g potato starch
  • peel of one lemon
  • 1 sachet of vanilla
  • a pinch of salt


  • 800 g ricotta cheese
  • 300 g sugar
  • 150 g dark chocolate drops
  • 50 g candied orange peel


  • 300 g almond flour
  • 300 g sugar
  • 75 g water
  • green food colouring powder


  • 350 g powdered sugar
  • some spoon of water

TO DECORATE: The Ghiacciaia

  • 75 g powdered sugar
  • lemon juice
  • 10 g egg white
  • mixed candied fruit

Let’s prepare our Cassata starting with Pan di Spagna (sponge cake). First of all mix eggs together with sugar, the finely grated lemon peel, pinch of salt, and vanilla with an electric whisk. You should obtain a very light, frothy, dense, and compact mixture. Then add by hand the flour and starch previously sifted together. Mix slowly by hand from the bottom upwards, with a wooden spoon in order not to disassemble the dough and obtain a frothy and aerated mixture. Finally, pour the mixture into a buttered and floured baking tin. Cook your Pan di Spagna in the oven (preheated 180°) for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool it down for 15 minutes in the pan, remove the sides of the cake with a knife, remove from pan and leave it to cool on a cake rack.

Let’s continue with the ricotta cheese and chocolate cream. Take the fresh ricotta, place it in a clean cloth, wring it out so that the excess milk will come out. Repeat this operation 2 – 3 times until the ricotta is completely dry. After that, put the ricotta in a bowl together with the sugar and mix with a spoon then with the electric whips. Add the dark chocolate chips, mix, and let it rest in the fridge.

For the Pasta Reale put water in a pot. Add the sugar previously mixed with the dye and let it dissolve completely, stirring constantly until you see bubbles. Turn off the flame, add the almond flour and mix. Pour the mixture onto the table and chill by kneading for 6 to 10 minutes, dusting with a little icing sugar. The dough should be smooth and velvety. Form a ball, seal in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge (at least 3 hours before using).

Cut horizontally the Pan di Spagna in 3 discs (minimum 1 cm per disc). Cut 1 in 5 – 6 cm wide strips, i.e. the same size as the edge of the baking tray. Cut out trapezoids with a 6 cm wide base and a 3 cm small base. Now thin the trapezoids to a thickness of 0.5 cm. Roll out the royal pastry to a thickness of 0.5 cm and cut out trapezoids equal to the sponge cake. Line the baking tray with cling film, (double layer so it is easy to take out) and add along with the edges the trapezoids alternating tightly, one attached to the other without space. Cut off any edges and imperfections.

From the second sponge cake disc, cut a circle of the same size as the bottom. Place the bottom in the center of the cake tin, arranging the edges. Brush the edges of the sponge cake and lightly the bottom with water and sugar (1 cup with 1 teaspoon of sugar previously melted over low heat and allowed to cool). Finally pour in the ricotta cream and chocolate drops, now cold and perfectly compact. Leave a 1 cm border, which is essential for embedding the next sponge cake. Then place the last circle of sponge cake on top, also cut to size. It must fit perfectly around the edges. Close with the foil on the side and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

For the sugar glaze, Put half the sugar in a bowl and start mixing with 1 teaspoon of water. You should get a soft frosting, add more drops of water to dilute, and achieve the right consistency. Turn the cassata out onto a plate. Pour the sugar glassa from the bottom and slide it down the sides, spreading it with a knife. Clean the edges, collect excess icing, and store in the bowl. Let your Cassata rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Pour the sugar glassa another time and then let your Cassata rest in the fridge for 2 hours.

At this point make the ice by mixing the ingredients all together. You will need to obtain a dense, white, and compact real ice to make the plastic decorations. Insert into the sac a poche and make the grid on the white disk completely solid. Add a pois of ice on each end of the turbot. Let it rest in the fridge to dry for at least 3 h.

Meanwhile, decorate the fruit with the royal ice. When the surface of the chest is dry, with the help of a round-pointed knife and glazed the side walls with the rest of the sugar icing. Let it rest in the fridge to cool for about 3 h. When the Cassata is completely dry, cut off the excess icing from the side edges of the plate. Clean up, decorated with candied fruit!


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Cover photo from Youtube