These pretty Italian cakes make a delicious (and gorgeous) brunch or dinner-party dessert. / © Ryan Liebe
Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.
Cassata—a traditional Sicilian cake that uses sponge cake, sweetened ricotta, chocolate bits and candied fruit draped with a bright green marzipan fondant—was the very first dessert I made as a kid. The occasion was "International Day" at school, and I was so proud. The taste was rather "acquired" for my little class of eight-year-olds, accustomed to Carvel ice cream cakes and Entenmann's coffee cakes. So when the cake remained largely untouched, I was pretty crestfallen. Fast-forward to a recent trip to Boulud Sud, where pastry genius Ghaya Oliveira prepared her deconstructed version of cassata, and I felt utterly vindicated. Fast-forward again a few months, and I've created my own homestyle, pared-down version that incorporates all the familiar flavors—ricotta, dark chocolate, pound cake, almond liqueur and candied orange—but I've caramelized the cake to give it a crunchy exterior, like crème brûlée. SEE RECIPE »