Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Casatta Cake


I like cake and my way of understanding life is based on that principle. This is not a tasty cake; it is a fantastic cake!

I was watching Il Commissario Montalbano with the current wife who really likes to watch Italian TV shows. The show is about an Italian detective, the inspector, a Sicilian man who is very good at solving crimes and loves food. He is bold and has some sort of belly (like me).

 In this episode Montalbano receives a cake from a woman and he takes it making a big fuzz about it... he asks...Casatta?... and the woman says yes. He looks amazingly happy. I look at the wife who is crying...but I am used to that as she cries with all TV shows, movies and TV commercials...

My curious mind went into search mode and I started looking for the Casatta recipe. In all my Italian cook books there was no mention of it, so I resourced to the Internet. The English sites did not convinced I looked for Italian sites. After reading many (using my dictionary, word by word) I managed to combine three that looked like the real deal. This is the end result and I have to say: this cake is completely another game. It is incredibly tasty and so different that I was in heaven when I tasted it.

The current wife, following her sweet instinct went for it also and, me being such a good and generous guy, gave some to my friends Barbara and Wally (I know that Wally is one of my best clients!... he belongs to the Men that Loves Cake Club  -we love cake and sweets-. I think he is the President). The cake lasted three days...three!!!

So, here it is. Casatta. Be aware though: is not for the health conscious or the quinoa salad eating breed. This is on my top ten favorites. We like Casatta and we dislike Quinoa. There. 

Cooking Time: 90 Minutes   Makes 24 small servings

15o gr. Room temperature butter
3 Room temperature Eggs
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Cup of sugar 
2 Tsp. Vanilla
1/4 Cup Lukewarm  milk
1 1/2 Cups of sifted flour de
2 Tsp. Baking powder
1 Tbsp Orange grind
2 Tsp Grand Marnier

75 gr. Icing sugar
200 ml water
1/4 Cup Grand Marnier

Cassata filling

500 gr Ricotta cheese* (do not use fat free or low fat!!) or room temperature cream cheese. 
200 gr Icing sugar (125 grams if using Cream cheese)
1/2 Cup of semi-sweet chocolate (small pieces, like chocolate chips size)
1/2 Cup of candied orange (must be fresh), cubed in small pieces.

If you are doing the recipe with ricotta, you must drain the ricotta at least 12 hours and then start to bake this cake. If you are doing it with cream cheese, then you can just go ahead and do all the same day.

1 3/4 Cup Icing sugar
1/4 Cup water
1 Tsp Grand Marnier

8 or so Maraschino Cherries
8 or so slices of Candied Orange

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F and butter and flour a #9 springform baking pan (I like to use parchment paper on the bottom to unmold easier) .
In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients: sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a blender soften the butter until it gets of light color and fluffy…creamy. Then add the sugar and keep mixing until fully incorporated (about 10 minutes or so).
Add one egg at the time and keep mixing for about 8 minutes.
Add in small batches the dry ingredient mixture and keep mixing until fully incorporated.
Fold in the orange grind and the Grand Marnier
Pour into the buttered mold and bake for about 35 minutes (you will know that is ready when you incorporate a toothpick and it comes out dry and also the top of the cake looks a bit golden).
When the cake is ready remove from the oven and put it on a cooling rack and leave it there for about 15 minutes, then unmold and reserve.

Cassata filling

First we are going to prepare the syrup for the cake, as we need it cool. In a small saucepan melt 75 grams of sugar in 200 ml of water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. We’ll add the Grand Marnier at the very last minute.
For the  ricotta filling: put the ricotta cheese to drain for 12 hours. If you are using cream cheese, then just have it room temperature. 
Mix the cheese with the icing sugar until incorporated (I usually use 125 grams of icing sugar if I’m using cream cheese).
Fold in the chopped chocolate.
Fold in the cubed candied orange. Reserve.

In a medium bowl put all the icing sugar and start adding the water bit by bit (that is…not all water at once!)
Add the Grand Marnier and keep mixing; we are looking for a smooth but super thick mix, so we must keep mixing until the icing is formed but it doesn’t feel “sandy”.  If the mix is too soft, add icing sugar and if the mix is too thick add a tinny amount of water.
Once the icing is formed and thick, we cover it with plastic and we leave it room temperature. We know that the icing is ready when you scoop some with a spoon and if you turn it upside-down it won’t drip.

Putting it all together

First slice open the cake in two halves (some people do it in three but I’m not that brave).
Now we are going to pour the syrup onto the two halves BUT first we are going to add the Grand Marnier to the syrup and mix it well. 
Using a big spoon distribute the Cassata cheese filling and close the two halves. 
Pour the Icing on the cake and distribute it evenly with a baking spatula.
Allow it to rest for at least half an hour.
Decorate using the Maraschino Cherries and Candied Orange.


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