O! M! G! This cake!
My girls LOVE strawberries and they love cake, so this is a winning combination. When I was little, my mom would make “strawberry shortcake” but it was nothing like what you’d see if you would google “strawberry shortcake”!
What was it? Well, it was Italian sponge cake, layered with fresh strawberries and freshly whipped and sweetened cream. Ohhhh YUM! And so, that’s my idea of a strawberry shortcake.
This cake is a bit different than my childhood cake in that it is a chiffon cake instead of a sponge cake, which doesn’t have milk or oil in it, and it contains a ricotta based cream. This is also called Italian Cream Cake or Cassata, and this version of course has loads of fresh strawberries (edit to state that I received a comment stating that this is not anywhere close to traditional cassata cake – which I agree it is NOT).
Can I just tell you that I’m in LOVE with this cake? It was sooo good!
This cake is a “take” on the Italian Cassata cake, which is a Sicilian cake from what I understand. Given that my roots are from the Campania region, I was not familiar with this cake – but I’m glad to have finally tried it!
I will be making this again and soon! And maybe even someday trying the more traditional version, which can be found here.
Recipe from my favorite cake cook book: Vintage cakes, by Julie Richardson
If you are a cake lover, you must get a copy of Julie’s book!
Italian Strawberry Shortcake (Cassata)
For the cake
- 1 3/4 sifted cake flour (7 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (2.5 ounces)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (4.66 ounces)
- 5 eggs , separated and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
For the ricotta cream
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup sugar (3.5 ounces)
- zest of 1 orange (optional)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- bittersweet chocolate , 2 ounces (optional)
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
For the strawberries
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries , sliced
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange liquor or orange juice
To make the macerated strawberries
Combine all ingredients and set aside while the making and baking the cake
For the cake:
Line the bottom of three 9-inch by 2-inch pans with parchment paper and set aside
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of the sugar together and stir to combine
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, buttermilk and vanilla
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently only until smooth - don't overmix
In a stand mixer, add the egg whites to a clean bowl and beat on high until just frothy and then add the cream of tarter. Continue beating on high until soft peaks form and then add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar slowly, then continue beating on high until firm peaks are formed.
Fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour/egg yolk mixture and then add the remaining egg whites and combine using the fewest strokes possible, using a light touch
Divide the batter equally among the 3 pans (about 10 ounces each) and bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake!
Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack
For the ricotta cream
Combine the ricotta, sugar, zest (if using), and vanilla gently until smooth (note: the original recipe calls for pureeing in a food processor; however, my ricotta turned very runny and didn't firm up upon refrigeration and so I'd recommend lightly combining by hand)
Grate chocolate and fold it into the mixture (I didn't use this as my daughter doesn't like chocolate 🙁 )
Whip the heavy cream and fold it into the ricotta mixture until just combined
To assemble the cake
Drain and reserve the juice from the strawberries
Place one cake layer on a cake board or plate and brush top with 1/3 of the strawberries juice then top with 1/3 of the strawberries and 1/3 of the ricotta cream
Repeat with second cake layer
To finish, top the cake with the final layer, brush with juice, and top with strawberries. Reserve the remaining ricotta cream for serving