Valentines Day is fast approaching, making this month a sweethearts delight. Recipes and gifts for ‘all things chocolate’, will plague markets, television shows and cooking web sites, tempting us to indulge to our hearts content. Chocolate has long been linked to Valentines Day for it’s rumored aphrodisiac qualities, not to mention it tastes damn good! So where did the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day come from? From the moment chocolate was discovered!
This scrumptious dessert has been entered in Cooking with Nona Valentine Chocolate Dessert Contest. Click here for more details and to visit the contest photo gallery.
The history of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica. Chocolate, the fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao, can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of cacao beverages dating back to 1900 BCE.
Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.
The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans. Source: Wikipedia
A classic Sicilian cake, rumored to be linked to the island’s Arab period because of the candied fruit mixed into the ricotta cream, among other things, it’s actually much older: The word Cassata derives from the Latin Caseus, which means cheese. In other words, Cassata is one of the world’s first cheesecakes.
Cassata is a traditional sweet from the province of Palermo, Sicily (Italy). It is similar to the French gateau. The word ”Cassata” comes from Arabic gashatah (cf. Latin caseata, anything made of cheese) and was first introduced during the Arab rule in Sicily from the 9th to the 11th century.
My recipe for this Traditional Sicilian Cassata Torte is made with a few variations to suit my taste. I’ve omitted the candied fruit, substituting freshly grated lemon zest, sliced almonds and diced semi-sweet chocolate. The Nutella and Chocolate Chip frosting tops off my Cassata Torte in grand fashion!
2 10 ounce loaf frozen pound cake, thawed
5 tablespoons Galliano Liqueur
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped
2/3 cups slivered almonds
zest from 1 whole lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Cut pound cake into 16 1/2-inch slices (there will be about 1/4 cake left) Sprinkle both sides of sliced pound cake with 3 tablespoons Galliano Liqueur.
- butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch spring form pan, cut a round of parchment paper to fit bottom of pan and butter, place parchment in pan
- Arrange cake slices around sides of pan. Add remaining slices to the bottom of pan cutting pieces to fit, set aside
- For filling
- In a large bowl combine cream cheese, ricotta cheese, 3/4 cups sugar, and flour. Beat with electric mixer on medium high until smooth and fluffy (about 2 minutes)
- Add eggs, almonds, chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons Galliano, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until just combined
- Pour cake into lined pan and spread evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until edges appear to be set and center appears nearly set when gently shaken. Do not over cook. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes
- Losen edges of torte with a dull knife, remove sides of springform pan and cool for additional hour, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 6-24 hours
Heat Nutella and chocolate chips in microwave set on high for 1 minute, stir to combine, heat additional 30 seconds if chocolate chips are not melted completely. Pour chocolate over top of cake.
Serve with drizzle of strawberry and chocolate sauce