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Chocolate-Nut Cassata
© Matthew Hranek

Chocolate-Nut Cassata

  • SERVINGS: 10
  • MAKE-AHEAD

Cassata is a traditional Sicilian dessert of liqueur-soaked cake layered with a chocolate-and-nut-studded ricotta filling; it is often coated with marzipan. You can buy small marzipan decorations in Italian markets and in some supermarkets. Many Sicilians frost the cake with chocolate icing or serve it with chocolate sauce.

  1. One 10-by-6-inch pound cake (about 15 ounces)
  2. 1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh
  3. 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  4. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  5. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  6. 3/4 pound finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or 1 1/2 cups high-quality chocolate chips, chopped
  7. 1/2 cup candied orange peel, chopped
  8. 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  9. 1/2 cup water
  10. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  11. 1/2 cup sweetened cocoa powder
  1. Shave the browned top, bottom and sides from the pound cake and discard the shavings. Cut the cake horizontally into 4 even slices.
  2. Push the ricotta through a sieve into a large bowl. Sift the confectioners" sugar over the cheese and beat it in along with 2 tablespoons of the orange liqueur and the vanilla. Fold in the chopped chocolate, candied orange peel and walnuts.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the water with the granulated sugar until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of orange liqueur. Line a 10-by-6-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing 6 inches of overhang all around. Brush 1 side of 1 cake slice with the orange syrup and set it, dry side down, in the pan. Spread one-third of the ricotta filling over the cake in the pan. Brush both sides of a second cake slice with orange syrup and set it in the pan. Cover with another third of the ricotta filling, another brushed cake slice and the remaining ricotta. Brush the last cake slice only on 1 side and set it on the ricotta, dry side up. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. Invert the cake onto a platter and discard the plastic. Sift the cocoa on top. Cut the cake into 1-inch slices and serve.
Make Ahead The cassata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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