Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Italian Ice Cream Cake

Incassare in Italian means “to put in a box,” and in this case the boxing consists of flavored ricotta in a light sponge cake, often decorated with  candied  fruits and  chocolate.  It is a dessert that,  once filled  and  sealed, keeps well  for a few days. That is why Italian  American restaurants had it on the menu: low maintenance  with good flavors. This versatile dessert can be filled with various flavors of ice cream, so try substituting that in place of the ricotta filling (in which case you will have to keep the cake in the freezer). Sicilian in origin, cassata is most easily found in areas of America that experienced a large influx of Sicilian immigrants, such as New Orleans.

Butter, softened, for the cake pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the cake pan
½ teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 small orange
1½ teaspoons gelatin powder
3 cups fresh ricotta, drained
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup finely chopped candied lemon peel
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
3 tablespoons lemon juice                                                                                                                    

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the bottom  and sides of a 9-inch springform  pan. Sift together  the flour and baking powder in a bowl.

Whisk the eggs in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour in the sugar, and mix until thick and glossy, about 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the orange zest. Fold in the sifted flour with a spatula just until incorporated don’t overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center  comes  out  clean,  about  20  minutes.  Let the  cake  cool  on  a wire  rack,  then  run  a knife  around  the  sides of the  pan  to  loosen  and unmold.

For the filling: Dissolve the gelatin in 2 tablespoons  hot water in a small bowl. Beat the ricotta and confectioners’ sugar in a mixer <tted with the paddle attachment  on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape in the dissolved gelatin and mix to distribute. Stir in the chocolate and lemon peel with a spatula.

For the syrup: Bring the sugar to a boil with 1 cup water in a small pot. Boil until reduced by about a quarter, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the Grand Marnier. Let cool slightly.

To assemble:  Line the inside  of a 9-inch-diameter   bowl with  plastic  wrap,  letting  several  inches of excess wrap  drape  down  the outside.  Cut the cake into three  circular  layers of equal  thickness,  using a serrated  knife. Line the bottom  of bowl with  one cake slice, pressing  to fit, and brush with some of the syrup to soak it evenly. Fill half of the cavity of the bowl lined with the cake with some of the filling. Fit another cake layer on top of the filling, pressing to fit snugly to the sides of the bowl, then brush with more syrup. Continue to fill the cavity with the remaining filling, and fit the final layer at on top. Soak the last layer with the remaining syrup. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the top, and weight top with a heavy plate. Chill overnight, or until the filling is set; if filled with ice cream, set in the freezer.

For the glaze: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl, and whisk in the lemon juice to make a smooth, spreadable glaze. If necessary, add a little more confectioners’ sugar or some water to get the correct consistency.

Remove the cake from the bowl and unwrap. Invert with dome up on a cake plate or stand. Spread the glaze over the top of cake, and let it slide down the sides, guiding it with a spatula  to cover the cake completely.  Let the glaze set at room temperature before serving.

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