As I mentioned in my post about Italian rum cupcakes, when I was younger, the Italian rum cake was the cake of choice at many special occasions and I was not crazy about it as a kid, but as I got older, I really grew to love this cake. My husband, on the other hand, since he still has not truly grown up, i.e. the Fred Flintstone and Scooby Doo figurines, amongst other memorabilia crammed in one of the rooms of my house, is not a fan of the Italian rum cake. It is not the actual cake that he does not like; it is the vanilla cream/strawberry filling that he is not crazy about.
We were at a family function about ten years ago. I think it was a party for one of his cousins. The waiters and waitresses were beginning to serve the cake. We could see from across the room that it was most likely an Italian rum cake. My husband began mumbling and grumbling because he was hoping for a good old chocolate cake. I was laughing because for some reason I just get a kick out of how he could get so mad about a cake. Then the waiter placed my cake in front of me. My husband and I both looked at each other. There on the plate in front of me was what looked like an Italian rum cake, but there was something different. Rather than being filled with the traditional pastry creams, this cake was filled with a white cream and what looked like bits of chocolate.
My husband's whole tune changed. He was like a little kid about to eat a giant sundae. I immediately asked the waiter what type of cake this was. He was not sure. As I began to eat the cake, it was evident that this was some type of ricotta cheese filling, and it was incredible. My husband and I both loved it. I later found out from his aunt that it was called a cassata cake, a Sicilian style rum cake. And so our love affair with the cassata cake began. We soon found out that only a few Italian bakeries made this delectable treat, and out of the ones we knew of that made it, there was only one that made it as good as the one we had tasted at the party which was also the place where the original cake we had was from, a bakery called Patsy's Bakery in Somerville, Massachusetts. We love this cake so much that to this day we make a special trip to Somerville for all of our birthdays.
In the beginning, my husband was thinking up all kinds of excuses to pick one up. At one point, he was buying one every few weeks for things like, "congratulations on doing great in school this week", for my kids...lol Anyway, since I had success with the Italian rum cupcakes, I thought I would try making a cassata cupcake.
The cake is similar to the Italian rum cake in that it is a sponge cake soaked in rum syrup. It is filled with a ricotta cheese,mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, and chocolate chip filling very similar to what you would find in a cannoli and then topped with the sweet whipped cream icing...delicioso!
To make these cupcakes, you will need to take one cup of ricotta cheese and place it in a strainer on top of a cheese cloth or a coffee filter, cover it, and let it drain in the refrigerator over night or, at least, for six hours. This helps to get some of the moisture out of the ricotta and I think makes it creamier. If you forget this step, it really is not a big deal, though. Just use the ricotta right from the container.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place six egg yolks in a large bowl and six egg whites in a small bowl.
Beat the egg yolks. Add 1 3/4 cups of sugar and beat until the mixture becomes pale yellow.
This looks really white, but it is actually more pale yellow.
Next, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla and mix well.
Sift 1 1/2 cups of cake flour into a large bowl. Slowly add the flour to the egg yolk mixture and mix well. This mixture will be very thick.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Take 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and mix it into the egg yolk mixture with a spoon. This will help to loosen up the egg yolk mixture and make it easier to fold in the egg whites. Then fold the rest of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. To fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, using a spatula, make a track down the middle of the mixtures, and bring your spatula under one side and fold it into the middle. Turn the bowl slightly and keep on repeating this step, gently folding one side into the middle until the egg whites are incorporated. Do not pver mix.
Place the mixture into cupcake pans lined with cupcake liners and fill 3/4 full.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until the tops spring back when gently pressed and are golden brown. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Then flip them upside down onto a cooling rack. This will help prevent them from collapsing too much. They will collapse a little, though.
To make the filling, place 1 cup of ricotta cheese and 1 cup of mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and mix together until creamy. This will only take a few seconds. You do not want to over mix this.
Add 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and mix again just until the confectioners sugar is incorporated. Next, mix in 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
Next make the rum syrup. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of rum, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. You can double the syrup amount if you think you will want the cupcakes heavily soaked in the rum syrup. Some people like it that way.
Now to assemble the cupcakes. Gently peel the liners off the cupcakes.
Cut the cupcakes in half, making the bottom halves slightly bigger. Lay the cupcake halves out on a piece of wax paper. Sprinkle or brush about 1 teaspoon of the rum syrup onto each half of the cupcake or more if you have doubled the recipe and would like them more heavily soaked. Let the cupcake halves sit for about 15 minutes.
Next, prepare your frosting. Place 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Start mixing slowly so you do not end up wearing the confectioners sugar like I usually do..lol Then beat on high until soft peaks form and it is the consistency of whipped cream. This will happen pretty quickly so keep an eye on it. You really do not want to over mix this either.
Take 1/2 cup of the now whipped cream frosting and add it to the ricotta/marscarpone filling and fold it into the mixture.
Place dollops of the filling on the bottom halves of the cupcakes.
Then place the tops on.
If you like, place the cupcake in new cupcake liners. Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag or a spoon and sprinkle with finely chopped almonds. Place the cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The cupcakes can be completely assembled, frosted or unfrosted, the day before and kept in the refrigerator.
Cassata Cupcakes The Garden of Yum
Sponge cake cupcakes:
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of cake flour
1 cup of ricotta cheese, drained overnight*
1 cup of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, optional
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup of sweet cream frosting below
1/2 cup of rum
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
(You can double this if you would like a more rum-soaked cupcake.)
Sweet cream frosting:
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of finely chopped almonds
*Note: Place ricotta cheese in a strainer that has been lined with a cheese cloth or a coffee filter and let drain overnight.
To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake tins. Place egg yolks in the large bowl of your mixer. Place the egg whites in a small bowl and set aside. Beat egg yolks. Add sugar and beat until pale yellow. Add vanilla and mix well. Sift cake flour into a large bowl. Gradually add the flour to the egg yolk mixture and mix well. This mixture will be thick. Remove egg yolk mixture and place in the large bowl you had sifted the flour into. Wash and dry the mixing bowl your egg yolk mixture was in. Place egg whites in this bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Take 1/3 of the egg white mixture and mix it into the egg yolk mixture. This will help loosen up the egg yolk mixture and make it easier to fold the egg whites into it. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Keep gently folding until the two are incorporated careful not to over mix. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 25-35 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched and are are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool in cupcake pans for a few minutes and then flip them upside down onto a cooling rack.
To make the filling:
Place ricotta and mascarpone in large bowl and mix until creamy. This will only take a few seconds. Do not over mix. Next, gradually add confectioners sugar and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Mix in chocolate chips. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
To make the rum syrup:
Place rum, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
To assemble cupcakes:
Gently peel cupcake liners off cupcakes. Carefully cut cupcakes in half, making the bottom half slightly larger. Place cupcake tops and bottoms on a large sheet of wax paper. Brush or drizzle cupcake tops and bottoms with rum syrup. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
To make the sweet cream frosting:
Beat together powdered sugar and cream until soft peaks form and it is the consistency of whipped cream.
Add 1/2 cup of the sweet cream frosting to the filling mixture and gently fold in until incorporated.
Place dollops of the filling onto the bottom halves of the cupcakes. Place tops on the cupcakes. Gently place cupcakes in new cupcake liners if desired. Pipe or spread frosting on top and sprinkle with almonds.