Chocolate Pound Cake Cassatas and Desire

I believe Desire is not only a state of being, but the state of being. Once we learn that our longing has nothing to do with the object at which it is directed, and will neither be alleviated nor mitigated by the object’s possession, but is in fact an inkling of some greater magnetism, a force by which we may be pulled into alignment with every other being since be-ing began —we might come to a place of peace where we can enjoy the longing in and of itself because of what the state of longing suggests—that there is something out there in the universe to which we are polarized, and that thing, I’d like to believe, is Love trying to make itself known to us. We turn to face it by turning toward things which bear its lustre, that we might reflect such a lustre ourselves.

cassatas beautiful

Maybe it is better said, you are what you eat. This philosophical rumination on desire was brought to you today by this cake I made and Walker Percy, whose character in Love in the Ruins still haunts me with what he says when, in a blink, his lust collapses into sorrow, “Dear God, I can see it now, why can’t I see it other times, that it is You I love in the beauty of the world and in all the lovely girls and dear good friends, and it is pilgrims we are, wayfarers on a journey, and not pigs, nor angels.”

Chocolate Pound Cake Cassatas

Inspired by recipes in Food and Wine and Bon Appetit, which I fused into this masterpiece

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅔ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter two cake rounds. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, ¼ cup butter, and 1½ cups sugar until pale and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5–8 minutes. Add vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not overmix; it will cause cake to buckle and split). Scrape batter into prepared pan.

cassata cake batter

Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan 20 minutes before turning out.

With each cake round, take a 5-6 cm diameter glass and cut three small rounds out of each cake, like so. (The best part is you get to eat the remnants!) Set these six rounds aside, and get started on the filling.

cassata cake rounds

1 cup fresh ricotta

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (or almond extract)

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Finely grated orange zest, for garnish

2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel (available at candy shops and at specialty food shops)

In a mini food processor, combine the ricotta with the confectioners’ sugar and amaretto/almond extract and puree until very smooth. Add half of the chocolate and candied orange peel and pulse just to combine.

cassata cake ricotta cheese frosting

Spread the granulated sugar on a small plate. Lightly press both sides of each pound cake round into the sugar to coat, tapping off the excess sugar. In a large nonstick skillet, melt half of the butter. Add the sugared pound cake rounds in 2 batches, using the remaining butter, and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until the rounds are golden and the sugar is caramelized, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the rounds to a rack to cool slightly.

Place 3 rounds on plates and top with half of the ricotta mixture. Top with the remaining rounds and ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate and candied orange peel on top and garnish with orange zest.



3 thoughts on “Chocolate Pound Cake Cassatas and Desire

  1. Oh my do those cassatas look amazing! Their name is gorgeous too. I am so impressed by your ability to create this recipe through synthesizing a few you’d encountered, you master chef you 🙂 I greatly appreciate your musings on desire for things that may or may not fulfill our deepest longings, something that I think, in this culture, we so often allow to overtake us without realizing how much of a driving force it is in our moment-to-moment decisions. So yes, we should decide to eat chocolate cassatas at every opportunity! 😉

    1. Susan, wise Susan, I have missed you! Thanks for your comment and I’m now wondering what cassatas have to do with weddings or marriage, even those there is only one s in “casarse”

      1. Rachel, marvelous Rachel, oh how I have missed you, and your writing too! The past weeks’ craziness at work and school have kept me from many beautiful messages in my inbox, even those from the best people. Ooooh, I love the possible connection between cassatas and “casarse” – a linguistics thesis for some romantic scholar out there, perhaps!

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