Cassata Buche de Noel


This is a different twist of the classic Sicilian cassata cake.  Cassata is a ricotta filled sponge cake that is typically wrapped in marzipan and has an icing glaze.  I usually skip the marzipan because it’s way too sweet for my liking.  This festive buche de Noel (aka Swiss roll) cassata is frosted with a yummy rum flavored chocolate ganache.  There’s a bit of preparation to making this cake however your efforts will be handsomely rewarded.

It takes about 2 days to make this cake because the ricotta needs to be prepared the day before by drying the cheese out.  Most ricotta sold in retail markets is not dense or dry enough to make this classic Sicilian filling.  Impastata, a drier version, is mostly available to bakeries.  So, you need to get some of the moisture out by wrapping the cheese in a dish cloth and placing a weight on top to release additional whey.  Unless you can find impastata, this step is a crucial otherwise your filling will be soupy.

The cake can be made in advance.  Both the filling and frosted cake freeze well and can be made 3 weeks ahead.  If the prospect of rolling a sponge cake seems too daunting for you, you can save yourself some aggravation by cutting the baked sponge cake crosswise into 3 (10×5-inch) strips and stacking them with the ricotta filling in between.


Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
Makes 12 servings.

1(16-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon minced candied citron (optional)
1/2 tablespoon minced candied orange peel (optional)

1 1/4 cups white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, at room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 (.32-ounce) envelope vanilla sugar (optional)
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
2 tablespoons dark rum

2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring or 2 teaspoons dark rum or

Candied cherries or candied orange and lemon peels
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting


PREPARE THE RICOTTA A DAY AHEAD:  Wrap the ricotta in a clean lint-free kitchen towel, tucking the ends of the towel under, and place in a shallow bowl.

Place a plate on with a heavy object on top (such as a book or large can) to weight down the ricotta and draw out excess moisture from the cheese.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours to 12 hours.

MAKE THE RICOTTA FILLING:  Place ricotta and granulated sugar in a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat for 4 minutes at high speed until smooth and fluffy.

Add confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, and orange extracts and beat for 1 minute at low speed until combined.

Fold in the whipped cream.

Fold in chocolate chips, citron, and candied orange peel.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make Ahead Tip:  Filling can be refrigerated up to 24 hours or frozen up to 4 weeks in an airtight container.  Defrost overnight in refrigerator.

MAKE THE SPONGE CAKE ROLL:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 15×10 x1-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper.

Sift the flour and salt in a small bowl.

In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs yolks, whole egg, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla sugar on medium speed for 6 minutes, until pale and thick, and sugar is dissolved.  Stir in milk, oil, vanilla, and grated peel on low speed until combined, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle the flour evenly on top and fold until just combined.

In a separate mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy.  Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread out in an even layer.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.

Turn the cake out onto a clean lint-free kitchen towel heavily dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  Remove the parchment paper.  Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.

While the cake is still warm, carefully roll the cake with the towel from the long end.  Place the wrapped cake on a rack to cool, about 40 to 50 minutes.

MAKE THE CASSATA:  Place the cake on a flat surface and carefully unroll. Brush or sprinkle the top of the cake with rum.  Spread filling leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges.  Use the towel to roll the cake up again.  Trim the ends and place seam side down on an oblong serving platter.

Make Ahead Tip:  Wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate a day ahead.  Frost the following day.

MAKE THE GANACHE FROSTING:  Place the heavy cream in a medium microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on high, until it begins to simmer.  Add the chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes to allow chocolate to soften.

Whisk until smooth.  Stir in rum and place in refrigerator to cool to a spreadable consistency, about 1 hour.  If mixture hardens, place in microwave a few seconds to soften.

FROST THE CAKE:  Place strips of parchment paper along the sides of the pan for easy clean-up.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with a butter knife or small offset spatula. You can also frost the ends of the cake if desired. Run the knife along the length of the cake roll to simulate the bark of a tree. Remove the parchment strips and decorate the top with cherries and candied peel.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

Make Ahead Tip:  The cake can be made a day ahead.  The frosted cake can also be frozen.  Place the cake with plate directly in freezer for several hours until solid.  Double wrap in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 weeks.  Allow to defrost in refrigerator a day before serving.

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