Sicilian Cassata, recipe and history of a typical dish

A typical dish of Palermo, or rather a typical Sicilian dish, is the Sicilian Cassata, a cake with an ancient history and unique taste. In this post I will tell you my experience with this dessert, the origins and the traditional recipe.
If you decide to visit Palermo, capital of Sicily, enjoying the Sicilian Cassata is a must, a cake with a sublime and unique taste, inimitable. Sicily has a very ancient history, its location was transition zone and easy conquest by many cultures and peoples. Over the years, inevitably Sicilian cuisine has been contaminated by the various peoples who have trampled the soil of the island in the name of conquest and occupation of the territory. Among the many things to eat in Sicily I highly recommend the Sicilian Cassata.

Typical dish of Palermo: the Sicilian Cassata and its history

More than a typical dish of Palermo, the Sicilian Cassata is among the most famous Italian desserts and certainly one of the main things to eat in Sicily. The history of the Sicilian Cassata is a long history, its origins date back to the Arabs who brought to Palermo some basic ingredients of the Sicilian Cassata: cedar, lemon, bitter orange, tangerine and almond, as well as sugar cane. These are the basic elements which make up this sweet siciliano. To complete the list of ingredients and the history of the most famous Sicilian cake in the world we cannot fail to mention the ricotta. Produced on the island since the even more distant past. But back to the origins of Sicilian Cassata, to the times of Arab rule, when it was a mere shell of baked pastry with a filling of sweetened ricotta.

Evolution of the Sicilian Cassata

Sicilian Cassata
Pic by Kimberly Vardeman via Flick under CC license

In a subsequent period, with the discovery of new ingredients and the ability to create new tastes, and also different colors, the recipe of Sicilian Cassata has undergone numerous variants. In Norman times, in the city of Palermo was celebrated Convent of Martorana or Pasta Reale, that was when it was invented and intended to replace the pastry in the Sicilian Cassata. This typical dish of Palermo before reaching the modern taste, has had some other variation, which over time has decreed the final recipe. The recipe that we will see shortly. A dough with the almond flour and sugar was created, then this was colored green thanks to some extracts taken from some herbs. This step also decreed a change in cooking, in fact, the passage in the oven was eliminated and was elaborated a cold composition.
This typical Sicilian dish found its completion with the Spanish domination when they added the sponge cake, so named for the Spanish origins. In this era inside the Sicilian cassata chocolate chips were inserted into Sicilian Cassata recipe, used to flavor the ricotta. We almost reached the last phase of history, when the Baroque, with its decorative art, embellished the Sicilian cities, including Palermo. The pastry chefs of the time decided to reflect this peculiarity also in the Sicilian Cassata. As typical dish of Palermo, the Sicilian Cassata started to reflect the aesthetic beauty, decorated and colored, of the capital. This is why they used candied fruit to beautify and brighten its final composition.

Dish of Palermo: the Sicilian Cassata and its recipe

And now we briefly explain the true recipe of the Sicilian Cassata. We mentioned the basic ingredients of the recipe which make up this typical dish of Palermo. The following section summarizes what you need and the process.

Filling the Sicilian cassata

  • ricotta 500 grams
  • 300 grams of sugar
  • 50 grams of chocolate drops
  • a envelope of vanillin

How to do

Knead all ingredients. The fresh ricotta is not to be used immediately, you have to make them lose all the serum and leave to cool in the refrigerator overnight. Then wash it and mix it with the vanilla, then with the sugar and the flour and finally with the chocolate chips.

Marzipan of Sicilian Cassata:

  • 250 grams of almond flour
  • 250 grams of granulated sugar
  • 150 grams of water and food coloring


Dissolve the sugar and water in small saucepan on fire with a low flame, turn the liquid until the sugar it seems that begins to spin, then add the ground almonds and the dye. Put the mixture on a cold shelf, preferably marble and keep working with your hands to give her the right composure. When it is ready, roll out with a rolling pin and cut into rectangles of dough. Now you have almost everything ready for your Sicilian cassata, probably your first Sicilian dish made at home, if you want it very well, you can also create the glaze which is prepared with water, a ladle for 150 grams of sugar. When you are ready, the glaze must have a white color and be stringy and pour on your cake.


Sponge cake. Fulfill your sponge cake or buy it ready to make the cake, it should be cut into thin slices, placed in a baking dish, alternating them with rectangles of real pasta, prepared above. Place your filling and cover with all the toppings. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour and then flip on a shelf or tray. Complete with the glaze. Now you have completed your typical dish of Palermo, the Sicilian Cassata.


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