Sicilian food chronicles: the Cassata cake

Among the rich array of desserts that Sicily kindly gave to the world, one of the most common and internationally renowned is the Cassata cake.

As the name suggests, this is a round shaped dessert that resembles a cake and it is the most typical one of the Sicilian pastry tradition. Its standard ingredients – there are lots of local variations – are sheep ricotta, sponge cake, marzipan, candied fruit and sugar frosting.

A Cassata cake ready to be eaten

A Cassata cake ready to be eaten

The name of the Cassata cake may come from the arabic word qas’at, meaning basin, or from the latin word meaning cheese:caseum.

As it happened with other Sicilian food, the Cassata has undergone many changes, thanks to the different dominations that characterized Sicily during the centuries.
Even if many of the ingredients have been brought to Sicily by the Arabs during the middle age – almond, citrus, lemon, tangerine and sour orange – it is thanks to the Normans that these got combined with sugarcane and converted into what nowadays we know as Cassata cake.  

Assortment of full size and mignon Cassata cake

Assortment of full size and mignon Cassata cake

Anyway, what makes this dessert a very delicious happy ending for every meal is the introduction of chocolate drops and sponge cake in the composition, happened during the Spanish domination of Sicily between the 16th and the 18th century.

Final stage of the evolution for the Cassata cake is the use of candy fruits for the decoration of the cake itself. This confirms that Sicilian Baroque is not just something to see but also, and essentially, something delicious to eat!

Speaking about eating, what are the best places in Sicily where to taste an original tasty cassata? Here is the top three:

  • Antica Pasticceria Irrera, Messina: surely the most authentic Cassata in Sicily because they rigorously use only sheep ricotta cheese;
  • Caffè Sicilia, Noto: home of one of the best Italian pastry chefs – Corrado Assenza – and famous for its amazing cassata;
  • Pasticceria Accardi, Palermo: considered to be the best pasticceria in Palermo, if going here try the Arancia in Fiore, a modified Cassata made with puff pastry and a filling of raisins soaked in rum.
A small Cassata cake, perfect to be eaten with a coffee

A small Cassata cake, perfect to be eaten with a coffee

Of course Sicily is rich with bakery and pastry shops, but these three represent the real excellence of Sicilian Cassata cake. Get your tummy ready!

Categories: Food

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