Make Ahead

Cleveland Cassata Cake in a Jar

July 24, 2014
5 Ratings
Author Notes

Growing up in Cleveland, I knew this as "the really yummy cake with the fresh strawberries." It was only after leaving Cleveland that I realized you can't get this cake everywhere, which is so, so sad for everyone else in the world.

Think of it as the strawberry shortcake of your dreams: layers of light, moist chiffon filled with fresh strawberries and custard and frosted with whipped cream. For me, it's the fresh strawberries that really make this cake; they're tossed with just a couple spoonfuls of sugar to release their juices but still stay firm and almost have a little crackle because of the seeds.

I decided to adapt the recipe from Sweet Amandine by creating the layer cake in small Mason jars. This way you can see all the pretty layers and have your cake, too! —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy

  • Serves 10
  • For the custard
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • For the cake
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner's sugar
In This Recipe
  1. Whisk together all of the custard ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Turn down the heat if it starts to simmer. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9" x 13" cake pan with lightly oiled parchment paper. Sift or whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the yolks, water, oil, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture. In another large bowl beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, fold about a quarter of the fluffy egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Then very gently fold in the remaining whites. As soon as the egg whites are no longer visible, stop folding. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least an hour.
  5. In the meantime, hull and slice the strawberries thinly. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir. Allow the strawberries to macerate for 1 hour, giving them a stir every so often.
  6. Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff, making sure not to overwhip (or else you'll be making butter!).
  7. When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the sides and lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper. Transfer onto a cutting board.
  8. Use the lid of a Mason jar as a template to cut out 10 (I was able to get 11, but 10 is a nicer, round number) circles, making sure to cut slightly inside the outline so that the cake will fit inside the jar. Tear the remaining cake scraps into large crumbs (you will use this for the middle layer of each jar).
  9. Slice each cake circle in half horizontally. Place the bottom half in the bottom of a jar. Top with a spoonful of the sliced strawberries (including some juices) and then a spoonful of custard. Tap the jar a few times to make sure everything is settled. Top with a layer of the cake crumbs and then another layer of the strawberries and custard. Place the top half of the cake circle on top of the second layer of custard and top it all off with a dollop of whipped cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Willie Johnson
    Willie Johnson
  • stephanieRD
  • Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
    Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
  • rgburack

23 Reviews

rgburack February 9, 2021
I don’t profess to be a baker-in fact I hate to bake, don’t even like desserts that much. But I made this especially for my sister’s birthday as it’s her favorite. We are from Cleveland and can’t get this anywhere near us in SC.
This is a FABULOUS recipe! Perfect, light, not too sweet. I cut the 9x13 cake in half and made a 2 layer cake and frosted it completely in whipped cream. The custard took awhile (20”) to thicken but was perfect. Directions are spot on-bake timing perfect. Only recommendation is to carefully layer strawberries on top of first layer if you make it like I did. You’ll have less trouble leveling the layers! I will make this again!
Thank you again, Joy, for a great recipe!
rgburack January 28, 2021
Dear Joy,
I am so excited to find this recipe! I grew up in Cleveland but never heard about Casasdas until my (much) younger sister and elderly Mother moved down to where I live (SC) about 8 years ago. This is my sister’s favorite cake! We absolutely cannot find it here-I try every year for her birthday, February 8th! I will make it this year instead! Please tell me briefly how to cut cake to assemble it as a full cake instead of using the jars.
Thanks so much!
eoryans January 18, 2021
Thank you for this recipe. I grew up in Cleveland and this was a staple at every birthday party. Just can’t find it outside of Cleveland.
Willie J. November 27, 2020
Great recipe, it's a labor of love, folding the egg whites really does make a difference. The cake & it's spongy yet absorbing flavor was Amazing & airy. Everybody loved it who tried it! #ClevelanderFoodie
Willie J. November 27, 2020
Great recipe, it's a labor of love, folding the egg whites really does make a difference. The cake & it's spongy yet absorbing flavor was Amazing & airy. Everybody loved it who tried it. #ClevelanderFoodie
Ginamarie216 July 3, 2020
omg.yes!! I left Cleveland 8 years ago and have missed this cake so much! The yummy cake with strawberries in the middle is what I always knew it as haha! Thank you for sharing this!
Alison April 9, 2020
more of a question, my son saw this a few months back and LOVES cassata cake. We find ourselves in the middle of the pandemic and his birthday is coming up. I'd love to make this for him since the bakeries are mostly closed. What size mason jar did you use for this? We are in CLE! Thank you
Author Comment
Joy H. April 9, 2020
I used half-pint jars.
Alison April 16, 2020
I made these yesterday in the half-pint jars (thank you so much for the speedy reply) and they were AMAZING!! Just like the cake we love from Corbo's in Little Italy but cannot because it's presently closed due to the worldwide pandemic. So Thank YOU!! Made my son very happy #cookingathome #shelterinplace
k_wel88 August 23, 2019
I’m from Cleveland and recently moved away. I never knew straws cassata cake (the way I know it) was a Cleveland thing. So happy I found this recipe - making for a friends birthday soon :)
Sue May 15, 2016
I grew up in Cleveland area too, actually Brooklyn, but I used to get a Cassata cake for my daughter for her birthday, every year from Rito's Bakery in Parma Hts. When we moved to NC I did a mock Cassata for her, nowhere near the same, but she was happy for it. Her birthday is coming up, we've been here for 12 yrs, I think I'm going to surprise her with this recipe, she can eat it whenever it's convenient. Thank you, I look forward to trying this. The recipes on Pinterest are a little different from each other.
Author Comment
Joy H. May 16, 2016
You're welcome! Good luck, and I hope your daughter loves it as much as I do! =)
Barb1949 September 2, 2019
I have a friend who comes from Cleveland every year to visit his family. We looked all necmver for a cassata cake. How long will these last in these Mason jars. I usually see him Tuesday with our old boss then then he does Thanksgiving on Thursday with his family. Will they be good in two days?
vsalupo July 18, 2015
I grew up in Cleveland the grandson of Italian immigrants. Cassata cakes were the preferred cake at Italian brides weddings. I never new until moving away that we were the only place these existed. They don't have them in Italy either. Great to have this as a more portable recipe. If ever in Cleveland, get a cake from Baraona's Bakery in Maple Heights, Ohio for comparison. The best Cassata I ever had. I get one occasionally when I go back.
benlbk November 9, 2015
lol, we had our cassata wedding cake made a baraona's a few years back - it was indeed excelent
stephanieRD May 12, 2015
OMG I love cassata cake! I've moved away from CLE and haven't thought about it until now. I am definitely going to try to make this! Thank you for sharing this!
Author Comment
Joy H. May 13, 2015
You're welcome! I hope it turns out well for you!
Kelly M. May 10, 2015
I made this dessert for a mothers day BBQ and it was a hit all around. The custard made it very moist along with the juice from the strawberries. I highly recommend this dessert for any event. Especially because the mason jars make it convenient for travel and transportation. I love this site, and every recipe I have used from here has come out fantastic. My only complaint would be the high labor involved in making the dessert, however I believe it was worth the effort. If you have the time to make this wonderful treat, it will be worth it!
Author Comment
Joy H. May 13, 2015
I agree, this is definitely a labor of love, but so worth it in the end!
Barb1949 September 2, 2019
What size mason jar did you use Kelly?
Anna R. March 6, 2020
I need to know what size jars to use as well!!!
arcane54 October 27, 2014
My "wasband" (as in ex-husband) raved about this cake from his childhood in Cleveland's Italian-American community. I can't wait to send this recipe to him... thank you!!!!
Author Comment
Joy H. October 28, 2014
You're welcome!