Brandied-Cherry Cassata

cherry cassata

Cassata, a Sicilian cake made for festive occasions, is filled with layered mixtures of ricotta, vanilla, candied fruit, sugar, and liqueur--we used juicy brandied cherries. Now there's a reason to celebrate!


  • 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

  • 1 ½ cups drained brandied cherries plus ¼ cup liquid from jar

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • ½ cup milk

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. Put ricotta, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and zest in a food processor; scrape in the vanilla seeds. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and then stir in drained cherries. Refrigerate.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely. Stir in cherry liquid. Refrigerate. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment; coat lining with spray. Dust with flour; tap out excess.

  3. Bring milk and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Put eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Beat in remaining cup granulated sugar and the vanilla. On low speed, gradually add flour. Drizzle in hot-milk mixture. Beat in baking powder and salt (do not overmix).

  4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Unmold; remove parchment. Let cool completely.

  5. Split cake horizontally into thirds. Brush a cut side of each layer with syrup. Spread half of filling on bottom layer. Top with middle layer, and spread with remaining filling. Top with third layer. Refrigerate until firm, 2 hours. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Cut into 9 squares.

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