Sicilian Ricotta Cake (Cassata) Step-by-Step

This elaborate, marzipan-ringed ricotta cake is a traditional Sicilian dessert. It first appeared in our March 2011 issue as a part of our special feature, Soul of Sicily. See the recipe »

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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