to a pistol packin' patriot on his 26th

This is the tale of a set of keys that nearly was lost, but wasn't, and a second slice of cake that almost wasn't devoured, but was. It involves a spur-of-the-moment shower in a bathroom not my own, a bathtub-loving cat who tried to stall the operation, a vintage gold watch that may or may not have been broken, and the kind of giddiness and pride that only the assemblage of a four-layer strawberry cream cake can inspire.

slice under plastic

Our story begins several weeks ago, when a certain soon-to-be 26-year-old shyly placed his order for a certain very special birthday cake. The birthday boy was none other than my friend Eitan, he who occasionally wields imaginary pistols and shoots them off Wild West style at the dinner table, who, in the eighth grade, composed a heart-rending (and rhyme-tastic) song chronicling the sorry fate of "a baker who lived in a village, who went by the name of Mr. Concillage," he who repeatedly insists, "you really don't need to bake me a birthday cake," but with a hopeful smile and a mischievous gleam in his eye adds, "but if you do, can it have whipped cream?" and with that seals the deal.

It took some prodding, dear readers, but soon Eitan's request was on the table: something cold, moist, and custardy, with a generous helping of strawberries. Eitan, his wife, Julia, Eli, and I were in the midst of an after-dinner flop on our green sofas. Our bellies were full, but our brains soldiered on to consider just what this luscious-sounding cake might look like. The word "trifle" was tossed around, fingers were pointed at the strawberry-crowned cover of April's Gourmet magazine, and soon even Julia had come to terms with the idea of a dream birthday cake conspicuously lacking in chocolate.

After more Google searching than I'd like to admit, and a careful patching together of several promising recipes, I had my game plan. On Thursday night, I prepared the custard, and on Friday morning, I baked and split the cake layers, macerated the strawberries, whipped the cream and, hands literally atremble with excitement, put the whole, whopping thing together.

from above on coffee table

So far, so good.

Eli left work early so that he could assemble his contribution to the birthday dinner, something specially suited to Eitan's penchant for Mexican cuisine: a saucy, steaming bed of bean and cheese enchiladas. The thought of making our way over to Eitan and Julia's with both the enchiladas and a towering four-layer cake in tow tortured me with waking nightmares of a whipped cream and bean-spattered sidewalk. But never fear, we had a plan: Eli would prepare the filling and the sauce for his enchiladas and then drive me over to Eitan and Julia's with the cake securely resting on my lap. Then, we would turn around, Eli would bake his enchiladas, and we would head back out, right on schedule.

Given the fact that the cake had not even threatened to crumble or tear when I delicately split two layers into four, and that our punctiliously timed baking, cooking, and delivering schedule had, thus far, gone off without a hitch, something was bound to go wrong. It was only fair.

When Eitan saw the cake, his eyes grew gratifyingly wide. Julia made room in the fridge while Eli and Eitan slid the four-layered beast from the wax paper-lined baking sheet to a glass pedestal. (I only shrieked a little during the perilous transfer. I am very brave.) Eitan ran for his camera, and after a brief photo shoot, Eli and I were back on the road. We jumped from the car, and then it hit us:

Eli: Do you have the keys?
Jess: No, you have the keys.
Eli: No, I don't.
Jess: Yes, you do. I was holding the cake, you grabbed the keys, locked the front door, and stuffed them into your pocket.

Just how it came to be that our car keys and house keys were on two separate rings that evening is not all that interesting, so I'll spare you the details. But the clock was ticking, and there we were, unsure of how we were going to get into our building, let alone our apartment, bake the enchiladas, shower, and make it back to Eitan's birthday dinner on time. Finding our keys was also, ideally, a part of the plan.

We buzzed up to our neighbor Varina, and she let us in. I did such a good job, dear readers, of keeping my cool. I said not a word, rolled not an eyeball, and even smiled a little on our elevator ride up. (Though, I must admit, when Eli tried to give me a quick squeeze between the third and fourth floors, I quietly explained, "I'm not mad, but I don't want to hug you.") At Varina's place, Eli called Eitan and Julia, confirmed that they had our house keys, and sped off to retrieve them. Without missing a beat, I turned to Varina and shamelessly asked if I might shower. Varina extricated her cat from the tub, handed me a towel and, classy shower-lender that she is, even offered me a glass of wine. Good friends and neighbors are the best consolation at key-less times like these.

I leapt from the shower just as the front door of our apartment, one floor below, slammed shut. Still dripping, I hurriedly waved good-bye to Varina, flew down the stairs, and found Eli sliding the enchiladas into the oven. We arrived at Eitan and Julia's exactly 45-minutes late - not bad, all things considered.

Julia and Eitan were waiting for us, as were our friends Jonathan and Hila. When the six of us get together, hilarity always ensues. I mean, everyone-talking-at-once, howling-with-laughter hilarity. Last Friday night was no exception. Hila's account of a questionably sordid watch seller had us giggling in no time, especially the part about how, in a tense phone conversation with the perpetrator, she referred to Eli - my software developer husband - as her lawyer. From there, we moved on to crude hand gestures, enchilada sauce on the carpet, and some good old-fashioned marveling at our friendship and the luck that brought us together.

Finally, it was show time.

Eitan, despite it being his birthday, insisted that I do the honors. Smiling dopily, I cut the first slice. From the outside, the cake looked like a hulking puff of white, a few sliced strawberries perched almost comically atop the airy whipped cream. But the inside (oh the inside!) was an entirely different story. Four-layers, three pounds of strawberries, and a double recipe of custard different, to be exact. It was the most unbeautiful beautiful thing I have ever seen.

the inside up close

I ask you, has ugly ever looked so good?

I had worried that this cake would be cloyingly sweet, or that somehow or other the combination of cake, custard, berries, and cream would fall short. I need not have been concerned. Quieting the six of us is no easy task, but this cake left us in bliss-induced silence for at least a few gaping seconds. Then came the moaning, ("Ohhh... delicious...") the groaning, ("This cake is so rich!") and the scraping of the plates. Even Eli finished his slice, which is saying a lot. Jonathan decided against a second piece, but then went ahead and ate one anyway. There was finger licking, people. I was in heaven.

And, most importantly, Eitan got his cake, and ate it too. Happy birthday, friend.

Strawberry Custard Cassata Cake, or, Cleveland Cassata
Adapted from the Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake at Smitten Kitchen, and the Strawberry Cream Cake published in the June 1997 issue of Gourmet.

When Eitan first rattled off his list of ideal birthday cake qualities - cool, moist, custardy, and chock full of strawberries - a cake from my childhood in Cleveland immediately came to mind. Cassata cake. I began my research with a search for cassata cake recipes, but one after another they called for ricotta cheese instead of custard between the cake and strawberry layers. I was baffled. It was surely custard in the cakes that I remembered.

With a little more digging, I found that, while the majority of cassata cakes are indeed made with ricotta, Corbo's bakery in Cleveland has long produced a custard and strawberry cassata. Their Sicilian family recipe traces back 100 years. Apparently, this cake got the attention of Chef Mario Batali who, according to this site, said, "Corbo's Bakery has the best cassata I have tried in the USA." Other bakeries and supermarkets in the Cleveland area took their cues from Corbo's and made their cassatas with custard, too. To reproduce this Cleveland classic, I grabbed the cake from one recipe, the custard from another, and did my best to piece together a cassata the way I remember it.

Yes, this cake is a bit of a project in that it involves several components and takes some time to put together. But difficult it is not. To keep things manageable, you can make the custard and the cake the night before - it's best to refrigerate the cake before splitting the layers, anyway, to decrease the risk of breakage - and then just split the layers, macerate the berries, whip the cream, and assemble the next morning.

For the cake layers:
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 1/4 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. cold water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 t. lemon zest
1 t. vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 t. cream of tartar

For the custard:
6 large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. half and half
3 T. cornstarch

For the macerated strawberries:
3 lb. strawberries
2 T. sugar

For the whipped cream:
2 c. chilled heavy cream
1 T. sugar

Make the custard: (you can do this step the night before)
Whisk together all of the custard ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Turn down the heat so that the mixture just simmers, and whisk until thick, 1-2 minutes. (The key words here are whisk constantly. The custard will tell you in no uncertain terms when it is done. It's like magic. One moment you can comfortably whisk your way through the liquid, and the next it is undeniably a thick custard. Cornstarch is neat like that.) Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a round of wax paper, and cool. Then, chill custard, covered, for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days.

Bake the cakes: (you can also do this step the night before)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with lightly oiled (I use cooking spray) parchment paper . Otherwise, leave the pans ungreased.

Sift together the flour, 1 1/4 c. sugar, baking powder, and salt twice into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, use an electric hand mixer on high speed to beat together the yolks, water, oil, zest, and vanilla until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture.

In another large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 c. sugar, and beat on high until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

Using a rubber spatula (and a very light touch), fold about a quarter of the fluffy egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Then fold in the remaining whites. Be very gentle. The goal here is to incorporate the egg whites without allowing them to deflate significantly. It is all of the air that has been whipped into the egg whites that will make for tall and light cake layers. As soon as the egg whites are no longer visible, stop folding.

Scrape the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. (Here is a trick for making sure you have poured an equal amount of batter into each pan: Grab two toothpicks and stick one into the center of each batter-filled pan. Then, pull them out and see if the amounts of batter on the picks line up.) Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the next step, and for the splitting, wax paper is your friend. Any surface that carries a cake layer, I line with wax paper for easier transfer.

Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a cooling rack for at least an hour. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release the cakes, cover each pan with a wax paper-lined plate, and flip. Gently lift the pans off of the cakes, and carefully peel back the pieces of parchment, taking care not to take the very tops of the cake with you. (I did end up pulling off a teeny tiny bit of the top of one layer, but it didn't matter, since the cake would ultimately be covered in whipped cream.)

Wrap the two cakes in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least three hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries:
Slice the strawberries thinly (but not too thinly - you want the slices thick enough so that you can really taste and feel the berries even once they are smothered by custard, cake, and whipped cream!), and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the 2T. sugar, and stir. Allow the strawberries to macerate for 1 hour. Their juices will release and pool at the bottom of the bowl. Every so often, give them a stir. Strain the berries, reserving the released juices.

When the cakes are thoroughly chilled, and thus a little sturdier, it's time to split them in two. Using a long serrated bread knife, carefully saw each layer in half. Place each layer on a wax paper-lined baking sheet or plate.

Whip the cream:
Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff.

Assemble the cake!
(I experimented with my layering technique: custard alone between the first and second layers, strawberries alone between the second and third layers, and strawberries and custard between the third an fourth layers. In the future, I'll put strawberries and custard between every layer.)

Place one cake layer on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of the layer with 1/3 of the reserved strawberry juice. Cover with a layer of strawberries, and then with a layer of custard. Top with the next layer of the cake, and repeat: strawberry juice, strawberries, custard, cake layer. And again.

Using a spatula, cover the entire cake with whipped cream. Top with either leftover macerated strawberries, or a few "raw" strawberries. (Next time, I'll go with the latter.)

Chill the cake for at least 8 hours before serving, so that the cake has time to absorb the strawberry juices. Bring to cool room temperature before serving.

(To transfer the cake from the baking sheet to a cake stand, use the wax paper to gently scooch the cake from one surface to the other, then tear away the visible wax paper.)


koshercamembert said...

such a funny story! i can never make layer cakes that don't topple...congrats!

Ellen said...

omg! I live in Cleveland and I love Corbos cassata cake!! I'll only eat cassata with custard!! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Jess said...

Hi, koshercamembert. I found these layers to be quite sturdy and just about topple-proof. I can't take any credit - it's just a darn good cake recipe!

And hello, Ellen. Thanks so much for your note. It's great to hear from a Clevelander! I'm a former Cleveland girl myself, and I'm thinking that it may be up to us (and Mario Batali, of course) to spread the custard cassata gospel!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

The story is hilarious and well-written, but the cake looks sensational!

Jess said...

Thank you, Linda, for your kind words about both the writing and the cake!

Pam said...

Hi, looks like a great recipe, I'll probably try this one. I love your blog, I always pass by, you have beautiful pictures and yummy recipes :).

Jess said...

Hello Pam,
It means a lot knowing that you like what you see here enough to stop by every now and then. Thank you. This cake is definitely worth a try. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

You totally made my day today! I love you blog! You bake and cook along the same lines as I do. I was actually looking for a cassata cake recipe because I love Corbo's and wanted to try and recreate it. I am way too excited to try this recipe. I hope you never stop posting recipes. Thank you so much for what you do!

Jess said...

Wow, Anonymous, now you're the one who has made my day. Thank you, and welcome to Sweet Amandine! As for posting recipes and stories, the pleasure is all mine. I'm thrilled that you plan on taking this recipe out for a spin. If you think of it, would you let me know how it goes? I would love to hear.

Anonymous said...


I've been searching for this cake. I'm from Cleveland and Fazio's used to make this. I always had it on my birthday. Thank you. I'll make it this week.


Jess said...

Hi, Lisa
Well, I can't promise that it will be exactly the same as a Cleveland cassata, but it is certainly "in the spirit of." I'm proud to say that this cake has gotten rave reviews around here, so hopefully it will do the trick for you, too. Happy baking! (And happy birthday, if that's what you'll be celebrating with this cake.) By the way, if you would like to try this cake with a lemony twist, take a look over here.

Hillary said...

I made this for a dinner party recently... it was a tremendous hit! I, too, couldn't find a recipe for the right kind of cassata cake (the ones from my childhood were from Catalano's in Highland Heights)-- this was amazing.

The outside of the cassata cakes I remember were covered in sheets of white chocolate; I couldn't re-create that in my kitchen, so I just took a vegetable peeler to a white chocolate baking bar and covered the top of the cake with white chocolate curls.

Jess said...

Hillary - That's wonderful! You don't know how fun it is for me to know that someone out there baked this cake. And for a dinner party, no less! I'm so pleased to hear that it was a success. Thank you very, very much for reporting back.

The white chocolate shavings on top sound amazing. My mom grew up in Beachwood, and she also remembers white chocolate being involved in her cassatas. She would very much appreciate your addition.

If you ever want to try a lemony version of this cake, here's a recipe for you. My husband, Eli, actually prefers it over this cassata. I like them both.

Anonymous said...

Another Cleveland girl here. I'm thrilled to come across an ACTUAL recipe for cassata (the right way). I cheat on mine and use Thank You brand vanilla pudding and the yellow cake that requires butter (it seems to be more dense). Kudos to you for this and thanks for helping me prove to my facebook friends that this is indeed a real cake. You rock.

Anonymous said...

As a former Clevelander, I love this cake and plan to serve it at my wedding! I have been disappointed time and again away from Cleveland finding strawberry cream cakes with no custard inside. HOWEVER< I think you have forgotten an important flavor, though --I believe there is RUM EXTRACT in the Custard of my favorite version.

Jess said...

Anonymous and Anonymous - I love that this cake has all of you Clevelanders (and former-Clevelanders) coming out of the woodwork!

Anonymous #1, I can't believe that your friends ever doubted you. Sheesh.

Anonymous #2 - Oh! Your wedding guests are in for a treat. I love the idea of adding some rum to the custard. I'll definitely give that a try the next time around. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you follow The Pioneer Woman's cooking blog, but she's running a contest right now. You should sooo submit this (this is anon 1, btw). I linked this page on my fb to prove cassata is real and now have people across the country drooling in envy!

Pam Palos said...

Oh my, Oh my!!! I'm not exactly a former Clevelander, I am from Lorain County, born anf raised!! I hade a cassada cake for my b-day for more years than I can remember.

I moved to AZ last spring and NO ONE here knows what a cassada cake is... My 16 year old son and husband even posted an ad on CraigsList trying to find a bakery that makes it in the Phoenix area - they actually had to describe it to a few local bakers, until one agreed to give it a shot. One came close but it wasn't like Ohio cassada cakes.

Now, we can show them this recipe for next time. Thank so much - it is nice seeing other people, especially from Ohio who love this cake..

Crystal said...

Glad to know that Cleveland is being represented and well.

I'm on the other side of town in Maple Heights with Baraonas. We have been ordering cassata's from them for 20 years. They are the next best thing, when I don't have time to make them myself.

Anonymous said...

hey, thanks so much for posting that recipe!! My mom and I have been searching and searching for a good cassata cake recipe (one without ricotta, especially), and yours was a life saver. :) Thanks alot!


Jess said...

Anonymous #1 - Hello, again! I missed the Pioneer Woman contest, but it's prize enough for me knowing that I'm helping to spread the Cleveland cassata gospel. Thanks for the link on Facebook. Yes, dear doubters, this cake is real. Very real, indeed.

Pam Palos - Thanks for sharing your quest to find cassata in Phoenix. I guess it's up to you to show 'em how it's done. Enjoy!

Crystal - I'll have to give the cassata at Baraona's a try the next time I'm in Cleveland. Thanks for the tip.

Elizabeth - You're very welcome. I'm so glad that this recipe did the trick.

Pamela said...

YAY CLEVELAND! I made this for a Cleveland visit for my dad's birthday, and it was super delicious and enjoyed by all. Thanks for the recipe!

erica said...

I love this cake I'm makin it for a company potluck ! I'm going with roasted almonds along the sides . My cheat is vanilla pudding with whipped cream folded in.

KandiceLyn said...

My grandparents love Cassata cake, for their 50th wedding anniversary we purchased one from a local bakery. Now that I have moved from Cleveland to California, I no longer know where I can purchase one. Of all the recipes I have reviewed, this one seems to be the most appetizing and the only one with strawberries! I am now going to make this for my anniversary. Thanks for the detailed instructions!

Anonymous said...

My mother was up from Cleveland visiting last weekend ((I live in West MI now)). Her birthday is coming up next Saturday - but since i can't be with her then - I wanted to give her a special treat while she was here with us - her favorite cake - Cassata Cake! I called every single restaurant, store & bakery I could find and NO ONE knew what I was talking about! I even called the "elite" bakery in town that everyone raves about - and I had to describe the cake in detail to her - she said she's never heard of it. I had NO idea this was a Cleveland creation!!! Thank you SO much for posting your recipe!! I WISH I had found it last weekend...instead, my Mom and I came up with a cheater version. It was delicious - but I don't think compared to an ACTUAL cassata cake like yours!! I can't wait to share the recipe with her!!! Hopefully we'll be together again soon and we can make a day of this cake! THANK YOU!!! ((Oh - and i can't wait to tell everyone it's apparently from my home-town!! YAY!! One more reason Cleveland really DOES ROCK!!)) :) :)

Anonymous said...

Too funny....I had no idea this was a "Cleveland" thing!! I grew up in Strongsville...and was craving a good Cassata cake. When I went online- all the recipes had ricotta cheese in them- so I was confused. I'm glad to see that I'm not alone. Thanks for posting this recipe!! I can't wait to make it for my out-of-town guests- and to tell them it's a CLEVELAND cake!!!

Liz said...

Hey Jess! I'm trying this cake tonight for a memorial day shindig and I have a question on the custard: do you really go with no added flavor? It tasted so eggy to me that I had to add some vanilla, which worked well to balance the flavors.

Happy memorial day!

Jess said...

To all of you Clevelanders and cassata cake lovers - a belated hello and thank you for your wonderful notes and stories about the hunt for the perfect cassata! I love that I'm not the only one who gets excited about this cake.

Hi, Liz. Adding some vanilla to the custard certainly sounds good to me. I've kept it plain in the past, and I haven't ever had a problem with it tasting particularly eggy. Did you whisk the mixture constantly once it was over the heat? Without constant whisking, I think you might risk getting tiny bits of cooked egg in your custard, which could account for an eggy taste. Is it possible that that's what happened? Or, perhaps your custard was perfect, and you just happen not to like the flavor of the yolks. Another option for flavoring the custard: The original custard recipe suggests adding a tablespoon of Punsch (Swedish liqueur).

I hope that you enjoyed the cake, and that you're having a lovely holiday.

Liz said...

OK, more from me on this, my first layer cake!

Did you trim the layer's edges to make them even? I did, since there was some mushrooming puffiness on the top of the cakes. I threw them in a bowl with some strawberries and custard for a quick cook's trifle (to munch while preparing the cake).

Liz said...

PS: Thanks, Jess, for your reply! It just showed up after I'd finished writing my comment! I think it's the yolky flavor rather than bits of cooked egg, since the custard came out perfectly smooth. Cheers and happy mem day!

Sherry said...

Hi Jess - greetings from NC! I just got back from a visit with my husband's family in Cleveland, and came across your blog while searching for a recipe to duplicate the cassata cake we had at Corbo's. I had run into the same ricotta problem that you and others have come across and am very grateful that you have done the work in piecing together a franken-recipe that works better! I can't wait to try this. If I get it right it will be my mother in law's birthday cake - but I'll need a few practice rounds I'm sure. =)

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I grew up in Cleveland, and Corbo's cassata cake has always been one of my favorite things from back home. I was about to spend the day experimenting in the kitchen to try to duplicate it, but I am very happy that I found your recipe instead. The custard and strawberries are spot on.

Laura said...

Hi Jess,
Grew up in Cleveberg too. I'm going to make this cake for my birthday next month when my folks come to visit me here in S. Cal. (Very excited to blend all these memories.)

Per a previous comment.
What is your instinct about what type of rum to add to the custard?
What proof? and
When do you add the rum to the custard mixture?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Cleveland area... we always had Cassata cakes for every occasion... happy to read your story... and find the recipe. Going to give it a whirl for my daughter's birthday. Would you put a fondant over this to make it a little fancier? My guess is that it would ruin it, but I'm just wondering your thoughts & or suggestions?

Jess said...

Hi, all

I'm just getting caught up around here and I hope I'm not too late in answering your questions. Let's get down to business:

Liz - I haven't had trouble with this particular recipe puffing up, but I have had some puffiness with other layer cake recipes I have made. When it happens, I just carefully level them off with a serrated bread knife and, preferably, a turntable. It sounds like you made perfect use of the trimmings!

Sherry - Thanks for your note. I'd love to hear how it went, if you think of it.

Lisa - So glad this post is helpful. It has been so long since I've had Corbo's cake that I honestly can't say whether this version is a true match. But it's definitely "in the style of." Enjoy!

Laura - The original recipe calls for Punsch, a Swedish liqueur, but rum sounds like a terrific substitution. I've never tried adding liqueur to my custard, so I can't speak from experience, but the original recipe has you add it once the custard has boiled and thickened, just before you chill it. I'm afraid that I have no instinct whatsoever to share with you about which rum might be best (shockingly, I've never baked with it!), but I have a feeling that you can't go wrong. If you do give it a try, I would be very grateful to hear what worked for you.

Anonymous - Happy birthday to your daughter! I've never found fondant particularly appetizing, even on fancy wedding cakes, so I'm probably not the best person to ask about this. But yes, I have a feeling that it would just be too much. The pictures in this post are from the first time I ever made this cake. In subsequent bakings, i've done a much better job dressing it up. First of all, my frosting has gotten much tidier. Also, I now use just-cut, not macerated strawberries on this cake. Take a look at the lemon version of this cake, and you'll see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your response... I'd decided against the fondant, afterall... wouldn't be a true cassata cake, anyway. I checked out your Lemon Cake... beautiful! For the cassata cake, do you not macerate the strawberries for the filling, either, now? I'm doing a practice one this weekend for my brother...

Jess said...

Hi again, Anonymous. I do macerate the berries for the filling. I just leave some strawberries unmacerated (is that a word?) for the outside of the cake. I apologize for the confusion. Once I have a consistent internet connection (I'm traveling right now) I'll go back into the post and edit the recipe to make sure that everything is clear and up-to-date. Your brother is a lucky guy to get to enjoy your practice run. Let me know how it goes, if you think of it!

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

My name is Jazz I am from Cleveland and I am glad to have found this recipe. I had no idea that this was a cake exclusive to Cleveland or better yet to Ohio. That is why I can�t find it anywhere but Cleveland. I now reside in Georgia. Thank you so much for posting it. I love this cake. My grandmother would make this cake for my birthday every year and I have yet to find any that could top hers or even come close. My friends surprised me for my birthday with one but it was chocolate. That was a first for me. I never knew there was such a cake as a Chocolate Cassata Cake. LOL! It is suppose to have strawberries and custard in it. LOL! My friends knew it was my favorite but had never heard of it or even seen one. I was grateful for the attempt anyway. I love them. Now I plan on making one for my birthday. By the way, my birthday is January 1ST. Thank you so much. Now I can give them a piece of Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

Ran across this looking for a recipe for cannoli cupcakes, and am so glad I did!!! I was raised, and still reside, in Cleveland. Corbo's desserts are absolutely the BEST in Cleveland,and the cassata cake heads the list! I am looking forward to trying this recipe, like the others, I have been unsuccessful in finding a stawberry/custard cassata recipe (the TRUE cassata, by the way...LOL). Thank you, thank you, thank you for making my day!!! I guess I am Anonymous 3...LOL

Anonymous said...

OMG, I love this recipe, I am from Cleveland (Slavic Villiage) and grew up on this cake and another version with a gram cracker crust on the bottom. I moved to Bend, Oregon about 6 years ago, and when I went to a bakery they did not know what a cassata cake was??? I was sad and tried to explain it, but they looked confused. I wanted it for my wedding but had to get a traditional cake instead. I visit Cleveland every year to see my family and getting Cassata cake is always on my list to do before i leave, but thanks to this recipe, I can now make it at home. I have my Birthday and College Graduation Party coming up in June and this Recipe is sure to be a hit. I am so excited that I finally found a recipe that is perfect! I plan to use the rum in mine though. Thanks again and I will eat a piece for you! I miss Cleavland and Cassata Cake!

Anonymous said...

Love this recipe, found it, printed and baked within hours...one question, the cake shriveled a little when cooling...is that normal? And that custard...really is magic...

Jess said...

Hi there, Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous, and Anonymous. Thank you for your wonderful notes! I love all of the enthusiasm for this cake and for our beloved city on the lake.

Anonymous from 4/27/2011: Yes, I find that the cake sometimes pulls away from the sides of the pan, but only a little. Nothing to worry about! (And yes, that custard...)

Donna said...

Overjoyed to find this recipe! Moved to Chicago too many years ago to count. Used to get a Corbo's Cassata cake every year for my birthday and I have missed them. They make Cassata cakes here in Chicago that are basically Strawberry Shortcake. We have family coming in from Cleveland for Memorial Day weekend and I am planning to make this cake for them. Since I'm making a spaghetti sauce recipe from my husband's Sicilian aunt, this will be a great finish to dinner! Thanks again for sharing this recipe. Love and miss all things Cleveland. ;)

Jess said...

That sounds like the perfect dinner, Donna. So great that you'll be baking up a little bit of Cleveland over there in Chicago! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I was born and raised east of Cleveland and grew quite fond of Cassata cake (and cannolis, too!) from Corbos! I am so glad to have stumbled upon this recipe and excited to share the recipe with my husband and his family that are not familiar with one of my very favorite cakes! I currently still live in Ohio (about 1.5 hours from Cleveland) and NO ONE down here knows what it is either! Thank you! :)

Jess said...

Hi, Anonymous. Well, you'll just have to show them what's what, right? I'm baking this cake again next week for a little friend of mine to celebrate her seventh birthday. I made it for her when she turned six, too, and she hasn't stopped talking about it all year!

Kelly said...

I just made this cake for my mothers birthday and it was divine!!! Just like we had growing up...in you guessed::: CLEVELAND!!
:-) It was wonderous and beautious and I can not thank you enough. Your newest follower,

Jess said...

Hello, Kelly. I'm so happy to hear that the cake was a success. Thank you for letting me know! I actually baked this very cake on Monday for my mother's birthday, too!

Sue said...

Hi, I was born in Cleveland, graduated from Strongsville, then moved to the west side of Cleveland (W. 130th area). There was an Italian bakery on W. 130th across from an Italian Restaurant/Bar. The bar was The Family Trio. I can't remember the name of the bakery. It has since moved to Strongsville, I think still on W. 130th. I had my first cassada cake from there and fell in love with it. I didn't know that the cake was a local Cleveland cake. I moved to Southern Illinois and went to a local bakery and ordered a cassada cake. It had anise and ricotta in it. It was horrible! I tried to make one on my own and totally failed. I found a recipe on the internet that was similar, and have made it twice. My birthday is this Sunday and I plan on making your recipe and hope it measures up to all the good raves I've been reading. I currently live in Panama City, Florida, and it sure would be nice to have a piece of home for my birthday. Thank you for posting this! I can't wait!!!! Sue

Jess said...

Hi, Sue. The Cleveland love that this cake has generated here in the comments section continues to blow me away! I hope this cake will be everything you want it to be. So you know, in my most recent version, I used only three layers of cake instead of four to make it a little more manageable. (You can freeze the fourth.) I put custard and strawberries between each layer. I think I like it better this way. I'll have to update the recipe. Happy birthday to you, and happy baking!

Anonymous said...

OMG a have lived in Cleveland all my life and recently moved out of state and missed this cake so much. I have been searching for the recipe for awhile and stumbled upon this site Thank you for the recipe. I haven't tried it yet but the picture alone brings back memories.

Anonymous said...

what do I do for high altitude?

Jess said...

I'm sorry to say that I don't know the first thing about high altitude baking. But I did find this resource over at Creative Culinary. I'm sorry that I can't be of more help.

Stephanie said...

if i wanted to cheat, what kind of box cake mix would i use? it's been a long time since i've had it and i can't remember if it was white or yellow cake.

Jess said...

Hi, Stephanie. I'd say it's closer to a white cake than a yellow cake, but keep in mind that the cake in this recipe is a sponge cake. A cake from a mix will be denser, closer to a traditional birthday cake. That's not to say it won't work; it will just be different!

BECKA said...


Bonnie said...

I'm excited to give this recipe a try! I remember my mother buying these cakes when I was a kid,(yes!)growing up in Warrensville in the 70's and 80's!

nicola said...

I made this recipe yesterday for a 90th birthday. I put strawberries and custard in between every layer and drizzled a little rum on the cake layers. It was a beautiful cake visually, stayed together very well and tasted delicious.
Thanks for the recipe!

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for this recipe! Like a lot of others, I am a Cleveland girl with a Sicilian background and I searched the internet for a recipe exactly like this one! We always have strawberry/custard cassata at our weddings, and I was craving one. All the other recipes I found were for chocolate and rum cassata cakes. This recipe looks just perfect! The cakes are in the oven and the custard is in the fridge, but so far everything looks wonderful. I was so excited to find this and am so thankful that you've shared this recipe!!

Buon Appetito!

kristi said...


i had never made a homemade cake before and someone gave me this recipe to make for a 70th birthday coming up. well, i tried it before the party, to make sure it was tasty... it's delicious and the cake baked up soooo very nice!!

now, i have to make it into a half sheet cake (12x18 in my neck of the woods, florida). i believe it is sturdy enough. just off the top of your head, do you know how many cups of batter this one recipe makes? i will only be making the one layer and splitting that; i don't think it will fit into the cake box if do any more layers than the one. following your recipe, the 9" round cake i made was over 6" high!! it was gorgeolicious!

thanks for the recipe.


Bluv1182 said...

My sister wanted a Strawberry Cassata Cake for her birthday. I never made one before, and this was my chance. I used this recipe, but I found it on another site. I followed the recipe to the letter. But, along with it I made a Swiss Meringue Cream Cheese frosting also. I mixed the custard with the frosting....and baby.....you talking bout delish! I couldn't taste the entire cake until my sister cut it, but it was wonderful. Light and fluffy, the filling went really well with the strawberries. It was great. I will be adding this one to my collection of cakes. (When I was soaking the strawberries, I added a little amaretto to them along with the sugar)

Anonymous said...

Hi I posted a comment last August (2011) about this cassata cake. I had forgotten the name of the bakery on W. 130th where I had my first cassata cake, I remember now, it was Rito's Bakery. I made this recipe for my birthday last year and will be making this again this year and again, and again, and again! Thank you for this wonderful recipe. Sue

Holly said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! We love cassata cake, and since we had to go gluten and dairy free in this house, I've frowned every time we drive past the local bakery (We're in Parma) I'm going to try and adapt this to be good for my son's food issues, but I'm so glad to finally find a recipe for cassata cake without ricotta!

Susie3Dbakes said...

Me and my husband went to Cleveland last year for a Dolphins vs Browns game and stumbled upon Corbos Bakery.. I just want to say it was thee best Italian bakery we've ever been to! We must have spent over $50 in there that night, we brought everything back to our hotel room and devoured it all!! Everything was awesome but I can't stop thinking about that cassata cake! My birthday is in just a couple of day & I will be making myself this cake! I'll let you know how it turns out! Thanks in advance for the recipe!

Sylvie Fox said...

This is a save the day, moment. I lived in Cleveland for five years and was trying to hunt down what I enjoyed at many a party there. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I am a native Cleveland girl, Lakewood to be exact! However, I have lived all over and currently am back in Lakewood until late June....I then, unless a miracle occurs and both myself and husband find jobs here, return to CA. Personal history aside, I think that this fascination with Cleveland- style Cassata is fantastic! I love it when people come to Cleveland and expect ho-hum and get BLINDSIDED by the amount of awesome-ness our town offers! Thanks for the great story and recipe, i love all of the comments and will be sure to somehow get you a photo of my cake when i finish... hopefully before my soon to be 5 year old ( his birthday cake request) devours it! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Baraonas bakery in Maple Heights. I grew up eating these cakes for all special occasions. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sue said...

Hey this is Sue again from the 2011 post. I made this cake back in 2011 and it was great! Last year I had a birthday party and made it again. The layers kept sliding off and I had to put sticks in the cake to keep it from sliding. I'm having another party this Saturday (Aug 17) and I'm making it again. This time I'm going to use 3 layers and see if that stops some of the sliding. I also have a recipe for the whipped cream frosting that's supposed to be very stable, it uses heavy cream, vanilla and almond extracts, sugar, and cream cheese. I hope this works!!

Jess said...

Hi, Sue! I'm so glad you liked the cake, but sorry to hear about the sliding. I haven't experienced that before, so I'm not sure how to help. After chilling the cake for eight hours, I've always found it to be sturdy. Was it very hot when you served the cake? If so, maybe that's what was behind the sliding... Good luck with attempt #2. I hope it goes well and that the cake is a hit!

Joy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming up with this recipe and posting it! When I googled "Cleveland cassata cake" the first hit was for this recipe that was printed in a magazine which was pretty much copied straight from yours without any attribution! (That just makes me so mad!)

I made the cake this past weekend but only used half of it to make a 2 layer cake. I used the other half to make cakes-in-a-jar and really liked how they turned out! Will probably be posting about it soon with attribution to you. Thanks again!

Donna said...

I'm a Clevelander, too, so was so excited to find your fabulous interpretation. Just modified it to be gluten free & gum free and boy did we have a fabulous time diving into our beautifully ugly creation, too! Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Born and raised in Cleveland I was sad that no one in Nebraska knew what a Cassata cake was when I moved here two years ago. But good news! It's just called Italian Wedding Cake out here! All you former Clevelanders, don't fret! Maybe your favorite cake is just being disguised as another name as well :)