Sicilian Ricotta Cake (Cassata)

  • Serves

    serves 10-12


Fabrizia Lanza taught us to make this classic Sicilian cake, rimmed in pistachio marzipan. It first appeared in our March 2011 issue as a part of our special feature, Soul of Sicily.


  • Butter, for greasing pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour, sifted, plus more for pan
  • 23 cup plus 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 1 lb. ricotta, drained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, or ricotta impastata
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 14 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Whole candied fruits, such as oranges, apricots, and cherries, halved
  • Candied citron, cut in strips


Step 1

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9″ cake pan; set aside. Combine 2⁄3 cup sugar, zest, and eggs in a large bowl and beat on high speed of a mixer until pale and light, about 5 minutes. Add flour and fold to combine. Pour into cake pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, let cake cool completely, and remove cake from pan. Using a serrated knife, cut cake crosswise into 1⁄2″-thick strips; set aside.

Step 2

Line bottom and sides of a 12″ metal pie plate with plastic wrap; set aside. Process pistachios in a food processor until finely chopped. Add 1 cup confectioners' sugar and process until finely ground. With processor running, slowly add enough egg white to form a smooth dough. Transfer dough to a work surface dusted with confectioners' sugar and knead until smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll marzipan until 1⁄4″ thick. Cut into 2″-wide strips and line side of pie plate with strips, flattening where they overlap to form one continuous ring; set aside.

Step 3

Heat ¼ cup sugar and 1⁄4 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, then stir in Grand Marnier; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining sugar, ricotta, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth, 2–3 minutes; set aside.

Step 4

To assemble, line bottom of prepared pie plate with cake strips, cutting to fit, and then sprinkle with 5 tbsp. Grand Marnier syrup; place ricotta mixture on top of cake and spread evenly to fill pie plate, smoothing top. Cover top of ricotta mixture with remaining cake slices, cutting to fit evenly, and drizzle with remaining syrup; trim excess pistachio marzipan and then wrap pie plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours. Meanwhile, combine remaining confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl to make a thick glaze. Invert pie plate onto a serving dish and peel off plastic wrap. Pour glaze over cake to cover evenly. Decorate with candied fruits. Refrigerate cake until set, 2 hours or overnight.
Sicilian Cassata Cake recipe
Sicilian Cassata Cake

Fabrizia Lanza taught us to make this classic Sicilian cake, rimmed in pistachio marzipan. Get the recipe for Sicilian Cassata Cake »

To form cassata (ricotta cake), start with marzipan rim: process 1 cup pistachios and 1 cup confectioners' sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to work surface and add half a beaten egg white; stir until dough forms. Continue adding egg white until dough holds together but is not sticky; you will not use an entire egg white. (Alternatively, combine all ingredients in food processor for smoother dough).
Using a rolling pin, flatten on a work surface dusted with confectioners' sugar until 14″ thick; cut marzipan lengthwise into 2″-long strips.
Line a 12″ metal pie plate with plastic wrap and place marzipan strips along sides of plate, pressing together at seams to make one continuous band. Line bottom of plate with slices of sponge cake.
Spread ricotta filling evenly over cake slices using a rubber spatula.
Top filling with remaining cake slices until completely covered.
Place a serving plate upside down on top of pie plate and invert both together so that bottom of pie plate faces up. Remove top pie plate and plastic wrap and refrigerate cassata until firm, 2 hours.
Combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar with 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice in a medium bowl; stir until a thick glaze forms. Pour glaze over top of cassata; using a rubber spatula, spread glaze to cover cake slices completely.
Cut a whole candied orange into quarters, making sure not to cut completely through rind so that quarters remain intact, and place in center on top of cassata.
Continue decorating cake with halved and quartered candied pears and cherries and long strips of candied citron.

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