Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 5, 2009: Cassata

Nothing gets me onto a calendar recipe quicker than the promise of icecream! This cassata is a triple-layered dessert made primarily of vanilla icecream, and I decided to churn my own rather than softening a tub of pre-bought stuff. Since just Michael and I would be doing most of the eating on our own, I halved the recipe and still had enough to enjoy over about 10 days.

Cassata typically features glace fruits, though Michael and I agreed that we'd prefer ordinary mixed dried fruit. Either way the fruit is soaked in brandy, making for a colourful and sweet first layer. I've had limited success using choc chips in icecream (they usually become hard and flavourless) so I was curious to try the recommended method - chocolate is melted with a little butter, allowed to cool, and then some of the vanilla icecream is stirred in, making for some quick-set chocolatey chunks. Though the icecream froze a bit hard, the flavour was there and this was Michael's and my favourite part of the dessert. (Next time I'll try stirring the chocolate through a larger proportion of ice-cream for a thicker, milder chocolate layer.)

After a sizable layer of plain vanilla icecream, there's a topping of slivered almonds and crushed biscuits (I used a couple of the ginger drop biscuits I'd baked earlier). The recipe suggests decorating the top with extra whipped cream but you probably know by now that that's not really my style. Besides, this cassata's pretty enough once you've cut a slice through those icecream layers.


1 litre vanilla icecream (I used the vanilla component of this recipe)
1/4 cup chopped mixed glace or dried fruit
1 tablespoon brandy
150mL cream
1 teaspoon castor sugar
60g dark chocolate
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon cocoa
30g slivered almonds
30g dry biscuits

If you're making the vanilla icecream from scratch, put the canister in the freezer and prepare the custard a day ahead.

Either churn you prepared vanilla custard or take your pre-bought vanilla icecream out of the freezer to soften. In a small bowl, stir together the fruit and brandy and let them stand for 10 minutes. Line a cake tin with foil or baking paper. Whip the cream and sugar together, then fold in the brandied fruit. Pour it into the cake tin and smooth it over a little. Put the cake tin in the freezer to firm up that first layer.

In a medium-sized saucepan, gently melt the chocolate and butter together, then allow the mixture to cool. When the icecream's ready stir some of it, along with the sifted cocoa, into the chocolate - the chocolate should harden up and create a choc-chip effect. (The original recipe suggests using a half-cup of the icecream for this step, but I'd use half of the vanilla icecream next time, I think.) Retreive the cake tin from the freezer, spread this chocolate layer over the first one, and return the cake tin to the freezer for about 15 minutes. When the second layer of icecream has begun to firm up, spread over the remaining vanilla icecream and return the cake tin to the freezer.

Toast the almond slivers gently in a dry pan. Crumble in the biscuits and lightly toast them. Press the almonds and crumbs into the top layer of the cassata and freeze it until firm.

To serve, gently but firmly slice the cassata using a wet knife.


  1. If you like cassata you have to try the frighteningly fluro offering at Bar Idda on Lygon Street. Get in quick before this week's Epicure review fills up this little gem.

  2. Ha, no way!!

    My Nanna makes this exact cassata (with glace fruit) at Christmas every year. I know it's the exact same one not just because I'd recognise that picture anywhere, but also because I made it with her last year. It's kind of a nice story.
    You see, my Grandpa's birthday is on Christmas Day, when we always have the full works including plum pudding, brandy butter, custard, cream and ice cream.
    But though we would always be stuffed after Christmas lunch, we had to have Grandpa's birthday cake, and this cassata was his favourite and a great tradition in the family, even if we were so full we just had to save it for later!
    Grandpa died, funnily enough, on Good Friday a couple of years ago. Even though we're still too full, we asked Nanna if she could keep making it. Last year I made it with her - maybe starting a new tradition?

    A beautiful recipe :)

  3. Thanks Penny!

    Brickski, thanks for the tip. That's the place in the old Rumi spot, right? We've glanced at the menu but not yet walked in. I'll check out the Age review and perhaps their cassata too. :-)

    Cathy, that's a lovely family tradition. I couldn't help thinking, actually, that this would make a nice summer-y alternative to plum pudding on Christmas day!

  4. oh cassata, such a Sicilian favorite. I can taste it right now. Fantastic recipe. When it gets a little hotter, I'm definitely going to make a batch!

  5. You should Maria! I'll look forward to seeing your version. :-)