Perhaps Sicily’s most famous dessert, Cassata Siciliana’s various ingredients respect the island’s eclectic past as the crossroads and melting pot of some of the world’s most important cultures. In the dish’s original form, a sponge cake filled with ricotta cream mixed with dark chocolate pieces is encased in an almond marzipan, decorated with a stripe of pistachio cream, and dotted with candied fruit. In this recipe, the dessert combines all of the flavor components of the classic sweet in a modernized, somewhat lighter version.
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In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the vanilla, and 2 Tbs. warm water with an electric mixer on high until thickened and very pale yellow, 5 to 6 minutes.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks. Gradually pour in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
Fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten, and then gently fold in the remaining whites. Sift the flour and salt over the top of the mixture and gently fold it in. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, gently spreading and smoothing it to make sure it’s level. Bake until the top springs back lightly when touched, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually pour in the sugar, raise the speed to medium-high, and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
Put the heavy cream in a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer on medium speed until medium-stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk a spoonful of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate. With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream and then the egg whites. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and refrigerate.
In the same pan, add 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup of water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the orange peel, reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, and cook until the peel is translucent, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the peel.
Set a rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl. Toss the peel in the sugar, in batches, and then shake in a sieve to remove any excess sugar. Arrange the orange peel on the rack and leave to dry, 3 to 4 hours.
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