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Place of origin
Region or state
|sponge cake, fruit juice or liqueur, ricotta, candied peel, chocolate or vanilla filling, marzipan, icing|
|Variations||Cassata Catanese, Cassatella di Sant'Agata|
Cassata or Cassata siciliana is a traditional sweet from the area of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Cassata may also refer to a Neapolitan ice cream containing candied or dried fruit and nuts. Cassata consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese, candied peel, and a chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream. It is covered with a shell of marzipan, pink and green pastel colored icing, and decorative designs. The cassata is topped with candied fruit depicting cherries and slices of citrus fruit characteristic of Sicily.
The Sicilian word cassata did not derive from Arabic qashatah ("bowl"), as is often claimed, but from caseata ("cheese concoction"), according to John Dickie, who observes that cassata did not even signify a dessert until the late 17th century and did not take on anything like its current striped green-and-white form until the 18th century. "Cassata" he finds, "is the subject of an invented tradition based on the claim that its roots lie in the Muslim Middle Ages. Many other local food traditions purport to be as old."
Unlike the round, traditional shape some cassata are made in the form of a rectangle, square, or box. It may be noted that the word "box" in Italian is cassa, although it is unlikely that the word cassata originated from this term.
The Cassatella di Sant'Agata (pl. cassatelle)—colloquially named Minni di Vergini, meaning "virgin breasts"—is a similar dessert, but made in a smaller, personal-serving size, with a candied cherry on top, and often a specifically green-coloured marzipan. It is typically made in Catania for the festival of Saint Agatha. The allusion to the female breast relates the specific torture Saint Agatha faced as a Catholic martyr.
In and around the American city of Cleveland, the term 'cassata cake' refers to a sponge cake soaked in syrup or rum, filled with strawberries and custard, and covered with sweetened whipped cream. This 'Cleveland' version of the cassata first appeared in the early 1920s at the local Italian bakery LaPuma Spumoni & Bakery. The children of the owners did not like traditional cassata cake, made with sweetened ricotta, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. Using what they had in the bakery, Tomasso LaPuma created what was to become known as the Cleveland cassata cake. The fifth generation of this bakery on Cleveland's East Side still continues to make the original version of this cake, as do many other Italian bakeries in the area.
"Cassata" can also refer to a flavor of ice-cream inspired by the sweet.
- John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food (New York, 2008) p. 25.
- Dickie 2008, p.30.
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