Each year, before my birthday, my mom would ask me what kind of cake I wanted. In my early years, I’m sure the answers were along the lines of “The Little Mermaid” or “My Little Pony,” but then there came a time when I cared more about what was under the frosting than what was on top of it.
When that time came, the entire world of cakes narrowed into two choices: cassata cake or ice cream cake.
It is important to mention, at this juncture, that I grew up in Northeast Ohio. This means that during December, the month of my birthday, it is very cold, and people do not much care to eat ice cream cake (also, it was difficult to find, as my town’s Dairy Queen closed annually during off-peak months). As a result, I often ate cassata cake, and it was delicious.
I recently decided to make a cassata cake, so I searched online for a recipe. What was this? All of the cassata recipes were wrong! How could every recipe on the Internet be wrong?
I did some searching, and it turns out that I’d been living a lie.
You probably think you know what cassata cake is, and you’re wrong. Well, technically, you’re right, but that’s neither here nor there. According to Wikipedia,
The cassata siciliana consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese, candied peel, and a chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream. It is covered with a shell of marzipan, pink and green pastel colored icing, and decorative designs. The cassata is finally topped with candied fruit depicting cherries and slices of citrus fruit characteristic of Sicily.
If you’re like me, you read that description and think, “Ew. That sounds disgusting.” (To be fair, I have never had the cassata siciliana. It may well be delicious.)
What I have had – and, in fact, what I had eaten my entire life – was the Cleveland cassata, a miraculous culinary creation. Again, from Wikipedia:
In and around the city of Cleveland, Ohio (USA), the term “cassata cake” refers to a sponge cake soaked in syrup or rum, filled with strawberries and custard, and covered with sweetened whipped cream. The “Cleveland” cassata first appeared in the early 1920s at the local Italian bakery LaPuma Spumoni & Bakery. The children of the owners did not like traditional cassata cake, made with sweetened ricotta, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. Using what they had in the bakery, Tomasso LaPuma created what was to become the Cleveland cassata cake. The fifth generation of this bakery still continues to make the original version of this cake at their bakery of the same name on Cleveland’s Eastside.
I have never been to LaPuma Spumoni & Bakery, but the next time I am in town, I will have to detour there to pay homage to the greatest cake known to man.
Please check out the Cleveland cassata recipe below!