Cassata alia Siciliana

At one time Cassata alia Siciliana (kass-AH-tah AHL-lah see-chil-YAH-nah) was served only at Christmas and Easter feasts, but in Sicily today it is also presented as a wedding cake. A sponge cake spread with ricotta cheese and candied fruit and covered with a delicious chocolate-and-coffee icing, the Cassata should be prepared a day in advance.

1 fresh Madeira cake, 9-inches long and 3-inches wide

1 lb. ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons double cream 2 oz. sugar

2 tablespoons orange-flavoured

liqueur

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mixed candied fruit

1 tablespoon chopped pistachio nuts

2 oz. dark cooking chocolate, coarsely grated

12 oz. dark cooking chocolate, cut into small pieces 6 fl. oz. black coffee 8 oz. unsalted butter , cut into small pieces and chilled

Using a sharp knife, cut the cake length-ways into J-inch slices.

With the back of a wooden spoon, press the ricotta through a strainer into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using a rotary

beater or wooden spoon, beat the ricotta until it is smooth. Add the cream, sugar and liqueur, beating until creamy. Using

a metal spoon, fold in the candied fruit, pistachios and grated chocolate.

Place the bottom slice of the cake in the centre of a flat serving plate and spread it evenly with a fairly thick layer of the ricotta mixture. Place another slice of the cake on top and spread it with the ricotta mixture. Repeat this until all the slices of cake and ricotta mixture are used up, ending with a slice of cake on top. Gently press the loaf together.

Wrap the cake in aluminium foil and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours, or until the ricotta filling is set.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate with the coffee over low heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the butter, a piece at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the icing to a bowl. Allow it to cool until it is thick enough to spread.

Reserve a little of the icing for decora-tion, then cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate icing by

swirling it on with a table knife. Fill a piping bag with the reserved icing and decorate the top and sides of the cake.

Cover the cake loosely with aluminium foil and refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving.

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