Make Ahead

Cleveland Cassata Cake in a Jar

March  4, 2022
6 Ratings
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 10
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. That's why I made it my mission to develop a recipe to share with all of you.

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. Make sure strawberries are in season and as fresh as possible before taking this recipe on. Of course, you can use whatever strawberries you can find, but it really makes a difference in the final dish.

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! I used half-pint jars. But if you'd rather serve the cake and leave it in the 13-by-9-inch pan, that totally works too! Do whatever you like, but going the extra mile by piling the layers in the jars will really blow everyone's minds away. Let me know what you end up doing and how it turns out in the comments below. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy

What You'll Need
  • Custard:
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Cake & Assembly:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the egg yolks, cream, milk, granulated sugar, and cornstarch, reducing the heat if the mixture starts to simmer, until thickened. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
  2. Heat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch pan with lightly oiled parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ½ cup of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, in a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, oil, water, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture. Using the electric mixer on medium-high speed, in another large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add ¼ cup of the granulated sugar and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-quarter of the fluffy egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Very gently fold in the remaining egg whites. As soon as the egg whites are no longer visible, stop folding. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, hull and thinly slice the strawberries. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and toss to coat. Let the strawberries macerate, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.
  6. Using the electric mixer on medium-high speed, in a medium bowl, whip the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form, making sure not to overwhip (or else you'll be making butter!).
  7. When the cake is cool, run a knife around the sides and lift the cake from the pan using the parchment. Transfer to a cutting board.
  8. Using the lid of a Mason jar as a template, cut out 10 (I was able to get 11, but 10 is a nicer, round number) cake circles, making sure to cut slightly inside the outline so 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 half-pint jar. Top with a spoonful of the sliced strawberries (including some juices), then a spoonful of the custard. Tap the jar a few times to make sure everything is settled. Top with a layer of the cake crumbs, then another layer of the strawberries and custard. Place the top half of the cake circle on top of the second layer of custard. Top it all off with a dollop of the 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
  • Mommy4

25 Reviews

Mommy4 May 5, 2021
Hi ! Would this cake recipe work in 2 8 inch pans?
Joy H. May 5, 2021
I haven't tried it myself, but I think so.
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
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.
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!
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!
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!!!!
Joy H. October 28, 2014
You're welcome!