the appetizer:

United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State by Warren Brown, includes recipes like Cassata Cake (Ohio); Sweet Potato Cake (Louisiana); Mud Cake (Mississippi); and Italian Meringue.


Cassata Cake (Ohio)

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake

Cassata Cake (Ohio)


I grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, and the Cassata is the cake of my childhood. This regional specialty is a great example of how recipes take on local styles over time. Some food historians believe the cassata has its roots in fourteenth-century Arab culture. In Sicily, the long-ago homeland of the immigrants who first brought it to America, the cassata often contains candied citrus fruits, citrus liqueurs, and a glazing of chocolate or almond marzipan.

The version of the cassata cake that I grew up with was quite different: a strawberry-and-whipped-cream-clad yellow sponge cake with a ricotta cheese filling. My childhood memory of the cake is that there were always leftovers that—thankfully—lasted for days. Flavorful and moist, that final piece of cake just fell apart in your mouth.

For the Citrus-Ricotta Filling
Ingredient Amount
All-purpose flour 2 ounces (1/4 cup)
Milk 1 cup
Unsalted butter 8 ounces (2 slicks)
Superfine granulated sugar 8 ounces (1 cup)
Citrus oil (pure orange or lemon oil) 1/2 teaspoon
Vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
Ricotta cheese 1/4 cup
For the Cake
Ingredient Amount
All-purpose flour 9 ounces (1-3/4 cups)
Cornstarch 2 teaspoons
Baking powder 1 teaspoon
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Milk 3/4 cup
Vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
Eggs, separated 6
Superfine granulated sugar, divided 16 ounces (2 cups)
Unsalted butter 8 ounces (2 slicks)
For Assembling
Ingredient Amount
Fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced 1 pint
Whipped cream (there's a recipe on page 55 of the book) 4 cups

1. To make the filling, quickly whisk together 4 tablespoons of the milk with the flour. The slurry will be somewhat thick, so whisk thoroughly to make it smooth. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula, if necessary.

2. Whisk in the rest of the milk and transfer the mixture to a 2-quart heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once bubbles that burp steam form, remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir for another 30 seconds.

3. Cover the milk mixture with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface. Cool for 15 to 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the butter, sugar, citrus oil, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for up to 5 minutes.

5. Add the milk mixture and continue to beat on high speed until the filling is smooth. another 5 minutes. Beat in the ricotta cheese 1 tablespoon at a time.

6. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F and place the rack in the middle position. Line the bottoms of three 9-by-2inch round pans with parchment.

7. Measure the flour, cornstarch. baking powder, and salt into one bowl, and the milk and vanilla into a separate bowl. Whisk each to combine.

8. In the standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed to a stiff peak. Drizzle in 1 cup of the sugar while the mixer is running. Scoop the meringue into a large bowl and set aside.

9. Lightly wipe the mixer bowl and replace the wire whip with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter with the remaining 1 cup of sugar on low speed.

10. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl all the way to the bottom using a flexible spatula and mix on low speed until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

11. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time without pausing between additions.

12. Stop the mixer and gently fold the meringue into the batter with a flexible spatula. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

13. Cool the cakes for 2 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edges and invert the cakes onto a flat surface. They will be very fragile, so handle them with care.

14. Assemble the extravagant cake by adding about 1 cup each of the fresh strawberries and the ricotta filling between the layers. Cover the outside of the cake with the whipped cream. Add more fresh strawberries around the edge of the cake if you like.

Baker's Note: The texture and flavor of this sponge cake are wonderful. I highly recommend using it in combination with other fillings and frostings, such as a filling of strawberries plus Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream (see page 43 of the book) and whipped cream dabbed on the outside.


State the Facts

A favorite Ohio confection is the buckeye. A ball of peanut butter dipped in chocolate that resembles the nut of the state tree.

Many of Ohio's first apple orchards were established in the early 1800s by John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed.


The Presidential Palate

Ohio was the home of eight presidents, more than any other state except Virginia. According to The Presidents' Cookbook, by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks (1968), some of these chief executives had decided preferences when it came to dessert.


How to Separate an Egg: Gently crack the egg on a flat surface, as close to the middle of the egg as possible. Turn it upright, carefully open the shell into two halves, and let the yolk settle in the lower half. Remove the top part of the egg and let the excess egg white spill into a bowl. Pour the egg from one half of the shell into the other, letting the white fall into the bowl and keeping the yolk intact. Repeat until only the yolk is left, and pour the yolk into a second bowl.


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This page created January 2011