My dad’s three favorite cakes are cassata, german chocolate, and pineapple-upside down cake, so when we went to Cleveland this weekend for his birthday; I knew I would have to bring one of those three with me! The Cleveland-style is custard-filled, inspired by Corbo’s in Little Italy (YUM – can I tell you how sad I missed the feast and didn’t get my cavatelli and meatball fix?) as Sweet Amandine‘s post tells me. Eating it brings back a lot of memories of Catalano’s bakery which was closer and where it was available with or without white chocolate.
I ended up making the cake in Tennessee the night before and making the custard and whipped cream in Cleveland. While it was a bit of a project, you’re able to do it in steps, and with the exception of some jumbo eggs from a farm market which caused the custard to be a little thicker yet still totally delicious, this came out very well. Albeit not the best picture ever since I wasn’t too interested in making my daddy wait to eat his birthday cake so I could fix it; it will definitely make the birthday cake rotation!
Cleveland Cassata Cake
Found at the food blog of one of my fellow Mayfield Wildcats no less! Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Fed She found the recipe, which lists its slew of inspirations, at Sweet Amandine
You can make the custard and cake the night before. I took the suggestion of refrigerating the cake before spilitting, and it was a wise move!
- 2 1/4 c. cake flour
- 1 1/4 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 5 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 8 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups half and half
- 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3 lb. strawberries
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- White chocolate, for garnish, if desired
This can be done the night before.
Whisk together the custard ingredients in a saucepan, then bring to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and whisk until it becomes thick, 1-2 minutes. The custard will change almost instantaneously from a liquid one second to a custard the next. Turn down the heat so that the mixture just simmers, and whisk until thick, 1-2 minutes. Move it to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or wax paper to cool and then cover and refrigerate the custard for a minimum of 3 hours, maximum of 2 days.
This can be made the night before.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking sprayed or Baker’s Joy sprayed parchment paper or leave the pans ungreased.
Combine the flour, 1 1/4 c. sugar, baking powder, and salt, and then sift it twice into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, place the yolks, water, oil, zest, and vanilla. Use an electric hand mixer on high speed to combine. Then mix in the flour mixture.
In a third bowl, use your stand mixer or your hand mixer to beat the mixture of egg whites and the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Once formed, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the yolk/flour mixture. This “gets it started”, then you can fold in the remaining whites, but all the while you want to be as careful not to deflate the whipped egg whites while combining. Don’t overmix – as soon as you don’t see the egg whites – Stop!
Divide the batter between your two baking pans (or use one 3″ pan like I did). Bake for around 35 minutes, but check beforehand. You want a toothpick inserted in the center to come out clean, and for the top of the cake to spring back to the touch. Once done, remove to a cooling rack for at least an hour. When the cakes are totally done cooling, run a knife around to make sure nothing is sticking and then turn out onto your plate. The top is a little bit sticky as the cake is almost like an angel food type texture. Wrap in saran and then stick in the fridge for at least 3 hours to make it easier to slice or leave it in there overnight.
Slice the strawberries about 1/4″ thick. Combine in a bowl with 2 Tbsp. sugar and stir; leave for one hour. You can stir from time to time as they mascarate and give off their juice. Then, strain the strawberries, BUT RESERVE THE JUICE!!!
Combine in a preferably chilled bowl the cream and sugar, and whip until stiff.
Split the cake layers in half. Put down your first cake layer and brush the top of it with 1/3 of the juice from the strawberries. Then put down a layer of strawberries. Then top that with a layer of custard. Repeat until you finish with your final cake layer. Then using an offset spatula or regular spatula, spread the whipped cream over the entire cake.
Chill for at least 8 hours; it only gets better the longer it has time to merry all the flavors together. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature. Serve with any remaining mascerated strawberries or fresh strawberries. Or white chocolate shavings!