“Cleveland Style” Cassata Cake
In my recent trip to Cleveland, I made a concerted effort to finally sample the cassata cake at Corbo’s bakery. In my nearly four year stint in Cleveland I only made it to Corbo’s once, and that visit didn’t result in any purchases. In fact, the only thing I’d ever tried from Corbo’s was their cannoli (fabulous, by the way!) that a girlfriend had picked up for a sort of pitch-in dinner. It’s sad, really. I spent a good chunk of my first two years there living hanging out at my (then) boyfriend’s place, just up the hill from the bakery. But it always seemed like such a hassle to get there and so I never went.
It was only after moving to Pasadena that I came across an article (from the Plain Dealer, naturally) in which Iron Chef Mario Batali claimed that Corbo’s Bakery (yes, that Corbo’s Bakery! the one down the hill from Hubb’s old apartment! – was what I was thinking) had the best cassata cake he’d ever had outside of Italy. I wanted to kick myself. Suddenly, that steep hill down to Little Italy looked pretty darn good compared to the airfare to fly into Hopkins and take the Rapid through Tower City and out to the University Circle stop and then walk up (down?) Murray Hill to get to what suddenly felt like Mecca.
So it was at the top of my list of things to do on our most recent trip. It just so happened that my pilgrimage coincided with the Feast of the Assumption, the annual street festival that celebrates all things Italian and Catholic. I’m sure there’s an important spiritual meaning to the Feast, (someone mentioned parading the statue of the Virgin Mary up and down Mayfield Ave.?) but as a non-Catholic, I won’t even begin to guess what the reason is. All I know is that if Italian food is your thing, then you’d be in heaven at the Feast. Every restaurant sets up booths and sells their most popular dishes, and as you can guess, Corbo’s had ginormous slices of Cassata Cake primed and ready for easy consumption. And it was good. If it hadn’t been so gosh darn hot I think I would’ve eaten it all by myself. (It was easly 95 degrees with about 80% humidity – not really cake weather.) And when it came time for this year’s birthday extravaganza (4 August birthdays on Hubby’s side) I knew that this was one cake I wanted to make!
I found a recipe on the web for a “Cleveland Style” Cassata Cake. Now, I’ve only ever had Corbo’s, so I’m not really sure what other type of Cassata cakes are out there. But I figured that since the writer mentioned Corbo’s in her blog, this would be a pretty sure bet. I was going to be making three cakes for the birthday-palooza, so I started on the custard the night before (which kept just fine overnight) and then baked the cakes, macerated the strawberries, and whipped up the icing the next day. Hubby helped me with the construction, and while I was worried that it was too tall for a conventional cake box, it fit in the end and looked just lovely and delicious!
And while I was concerned that the custard would completely saturate the cake, it wound up being a huge hit at the birthday celebration! Of course, everyone had their personal favorites and this was definitely one of the more popular ones! I definitely recommend assembling this cake 24 hours in advance of consuming it as the flavors definitely meld together and the custard makes for a more moist cake after it’s set for a while.
If you want to make a Cleveland style cassata cake for yourself, simply follow the wonderfully helpful recipe I found at Sweet Amandine’s site! I followed this recipe to a “T” with the exception of the icing – I’m a little less careful with my icing skills than Ms. Amandine and needed to whip up (pun intended) more of the whipped cream icing. So in the end, I used 3 c. heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 T. sugar. Also, I took her advice and included the custard filling on every layer, which made the cake that much more moist and decadent. This cake will definitely get made again!