Cassata – Italian ice-cream cake

14 Apr

My family was not big on desserts. Even at the big annual feasts like Easter, Christmas, or New Year, dessert would usually be a small bowl of (home) tinned peaches with a scoop of ice-cream – or perhaps a trifle brought by one of the Anglo-Australian in-laws.

To my mind (or perhaps it’s to my sweet tooth), there are certain occasions that call for something more elaborate, more celebratory. It comes, no doubt, from the Anglo-Australian influence. This Easter (just two weeks ago), I decided to add something to the gnocchi and rabbit (rabbit recipe forthcoming) that have become a bit of a tradition in our home. I remembered, during my three months in Italy as a ten year old, that I became a little obsessed with individual serves of an Italian ice-cream cake called cassata that the local shop sold. Every few years my thoughts will return to cassata, and I’ll vaguely wonder where I might get one before being distracted by my life. This year, I decided to make one. The results were remarkably good, so I’m sharing the recipe.



Loaf tin (approx. 25cm x 7cm)

Bowls, spoons, spatula.

Plastic (cling) wrap


2L vanilla ice-cream

½ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts, almonds or both

½  cup finely chopped glacé fruit (cherries, apricots, pineapple, peaches etc)

100g Toblerone, chopped (you can use chocolate covered peanut brittle)

2 ½ tbsps cocoa powder

1-2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur

grated chocolate, preferably dark (for decoration)

 Sure, you can make your own ice-cream if you want. I didn’t, however.


Wet the loaf tin and line with cling wrap (you can use baking paper instead). Wetting the tin helps the plastic wrap to stick to it.DSC04945

Work with one third of the ice-cream at a time, keeping the rest frozen. You may want to divide the ice-cream into 3 containers before you start (I didn’t, so my thirds were not exactly even).

To one third of the ice-cream, add the liqueur and glacé fruit. Mix thoroughly. Spoon this mixture into the tin and smooth out evenly. Place in freezer while working on next step. Make sure this layer is firmly set before preparing the next layer (it will take a little longer to set because of the liqueur).

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To the second third of the ice-cream, add the chopped Toblerone, and sift ½ tbsp cocoa powder over the top. Mix thoroughly. Spoon mixture into tin and smooth evenly. Place back in freezer. Make sure this layer is firmly set before preparing the next layer.

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To the final third of the ice-cream, add the chopped nuts and sift 2 tbsp cocoa power over top. Mix thoroughly (this layer should be uniformly darker than the previous one, then spoon into tin and smooth evenly.

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Cover with cling wrap and freeze overnight.

Before serving, grate chocolate over top. Serve in slices.



4 Responses to “Cassata – Italian ice-cream cake”

  1. bneed April 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm #


    • robpensalfini April 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Poon is a perfectly good word, at least in Australian English. However, I did mean spoons and have corrected the error, thanks Barbara! (I don’t think poons would actually assist in making cassata, and would probably be distracting, but for the few people reading this who are bilingual in Australian English AND vernacular Italian, one might say that substituting poons would make for “una bella Cazzata”)

  2. queenmartine April 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    snot a cazzata – it’s lovely!

  3. Justin Di Lollo April 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Aaah. Just looking at this recipe is bringing back childhood memories. When we went for dinner at the Capri restaurant in Fremantle, the choice was always Cassata or Tartufo. I was definitely a kid in the former camp!

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