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Cassata is a traditional Italian dessert made from sponge cake soaked in liqueur that has been layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit in a cream filling – plus a decorative marzipan top. Our version today is a much more simplified Cassata Ricotta – and although I first made this recipe over the holidays last winter – I think it’s a perfect summertime dessert!
This Cassatta Ricotta takes advantage of the convenience of starting with a store-bought sponge cake. Slices of sponge cake are drizzled with orange juice and triple sec to give it a sweet orange flavor. In between the layers of cake is a mixture of fresh ricotta cheese, orange zest, sugar, vanilla plus a little more of the orangey triple sec liqueur.
The layers of cake and filling are pressed down under weights (you can use dried beans in a plastic bag) in a loaf pan and chilled until firm. During the chilling process, the cake absorbs some of the moisture from the ricotta filling transforming this into a creamy and delicious dessert!
You can also swap in angel food cake for the sponge cake in this Cassatta Ricotta – but the finished texture will be slightly less creamy (but still delicious!). I’ve also included a link in the recipe in case you’d like to make a homemade sponge cake rather than buying a store bought cake.
Adapted from Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? (affiliate link)
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Cassata Ricotta (Sponge Cake with Ricotta)
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 tablespoons triple sec liqueur, divided
- 4 ounces candied citrus peel (lemon or orange), finely chopped – store bought or homemade if you prefer
- 1 16–ounce sponge cake (or angel food cake) – store bought or homemade if you prefer
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- Additional candied citrus peel for garnish, if desired
- In a mixing bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, orange zest, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the triple sec. Once mixed, place one-third of the mixture in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
- Add the candied citrus peel to the remaining ricotta mixture in the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Slice the cake into approximately 16 slices that are about 1 inch to 1½ inches thick.
- Line the bottom of a 5-cup loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to fit the bottom of the pan. Arrange 4 of the cake slices side by side in the bottom of the pan – tearing the cake into smaller pieces if necessary to create a solid layer of cake. Evenly drizzle 1 tablespoon of the triple sec and 1 tablespoon of orange juice over the cake layer – allowing it to soak in. Spoon about 1/3 of the ricotta and candied citrus mixture over the cake, evenly spreading over the cake.
- Repeat two more times – a layer of cake, drizzle of triple sec and drizzle of orange juice, and a layer of ricotta-candied citrus peel. Top with a final layer of cake slices.
- Cut another piece of parchment paper to fit over the top layer of the cake. Also cut a small piece of cardboard the same size and place that over the parchment paper. Place some weights on top of the cardboard (you can use pie weights or dried beans in a zipper seal bag) – this will press the layers of cake and ricotta together as the cake chills.
- Chill cake for at least two hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, remove the weights, cardboard and parchment from the top of the pan. Run a thin knife or spatula down around the sides of the loaf pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Place a serving platter over the loaf pan, then invert the pan. Gently lift the loaf pan, checking that the cake is sliding out. (If necessary, run the knife around the edges again.) Lift the loaf pan off the cake and remove the parchment paper from the top of the cake.
- Gently spread the reserved ricotta mixture over the top of the cake like a frosting. Top with additional candied citrus peel if desired.
- Slice to serve.
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