A sponge cake layered with ricotta, candied fruit and almond paste, cassata is a traditional Easter dessert in Sicily. The classic version is a complicated affair, so we streamlined the process and replaced the candied fruit with decadent flavours of chocolate and orange. For an impeccable presentation, drain the maraschino cherries on a paper towel in the fridge overnight so they don’t stain the icing.
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Do not butter.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until the mixture triples in volume and forms a ribbon as it falls from the beaters, about 10 minutes. With the mixer at low speed, drizzle in the oil.
Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, then fold in using a whisk. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely. Run the blade of a knife between the cake and the pan, then unmould. Clean the springform pan.
In a food processor, purée the ricotta, cream, honey and orange zest until very creamy, about 2 minutes. Spoon two-thirds of the ricotta cream into a bowl and gently stir in the chopped chocolate. Set the plain ricotta cream aside.
Slice the cake horizontally to obtain 3 layers.
Place 1 cake layer in the clean springform pan and spread with half of the chocolate ricotta cream. Cover with a second cake layer and spread with the remaining chocolate ricotta cream. Top with the third cake layer and cover with the reserved plain ricotta cream. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Unmould the cake and place on a serving platter.
On a work surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the marzipan into a 14-inch (36 cm) disc, about inch (3 mm) thick. Drape the marzipan over the cake and smooth down the sides to completely cover it. Tuck any excess under the cake.
In a bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and water. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Top with the cherries.
Recipes with the "Healthy Pick" stamp have been evaluated by a registered dietitian member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec.