La Cassata. Dolce Siciliano per Antonomasia

The Cassata. Sicilian dessert for Antonomasia

Cassata is the Sicilian dessert par excellence. Despite the apparent simplicity of the recipe, there are innumerable local variants that stand out for the typicality of the various recipes: the Palermo variant, the Messina variant (less sweet), the Catania variant, the Trapani variant, the Nissena variant and the Syracuse variant (which is distinguished by the layers of sponge cake and the absence of icing.

Telling the story of cassata means telling the story of Sicily itself. Already before the Romans there was talk of a dessert prepared by mixing ricotta with honey. The term cassata derives from "encased" or also from the Arabic "qas'at" or that is overturned bowl. Since the classical age of the Greek-Roman period, the term "caseatus" is repeatedly found to indicate a sweet with ricotta. In 827 the Arabs arrived in Sicily and brought sugar and also the art of candying, so the ricotta, traditionally made from sheep's milk, is sweetened with sugar and no longer with honey, enriched with the scent of cinnamon and colored with candied fruit. In 998 It is mentioned during the reign of Emir Yussuf. When the Spaniards arrived in Sicily at the end of the 15th century, they introduced the sponge cake. In 1785 the cassata was identified as a "kind of cake made of sugar-sweetened ricotta with a sweetened dough roll-up and round in shape. The cassata is considered an Easter cake of the monastic type because its round shape recalls that of the sun and also because the nuns have produced it in convents for centuries.Tradition says that in 1575 the bishop of Mazara forbade the production of cassata to the nuns because this intense activity distracted them from praying the rites of Holy Week. took on the current one in 1860. During an international event in Vienna, and from that moment it will be called “cassata alla siciliana". This is thanks to the master pastry chef from Palermo, the knight Salvatore Gulì, on that famous occasion he conceived this superb dessert which is composed of two discs of sponge cake with sweetened ricotta cheese in the middle, surrounded by rectangles of sponge cake alternating with rectangles of almond paste with pistachio (marzipan), covered with sugar icing and candied fruit in which he was specialized. The outward appearance can range from a sparse decoration of icing and some candied orange peel to an opulent baroque construction with colored beads and half a dozen different candied fruits.

Again according to local variations, there may be additional ingredients, such as pistachios, pine nuts, chocolate, cinnamon, or orange blossom water . An ancient Sicilian proverb reads: "Tintu è cu nun mancia a cassata a matina ri Pasqua" ("Mean who doesn't eat cassata on Easter morning")

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