I didn't think a cassata cake could get better...until there was chocolate.

This is one of my all-time favorite cakes, so far! It's a rich, but addictive all the same; the cake is chocolatey and moist, the pudding creamy, and the ganache smooth and decadent. Having made it three times in a row, I've used both traditional chocolate ganache and hot fudge as a chocolate shell. The choice is yours, but I believe I preferred the fudge because of the hint of caramel flavor it added. 

If you don't like your cakes as rich, skip the shell and make it like a trifle, with only cake and pudding. You can also play with the amount of chocolate and the type of chocolate, depending on your taste. A nice addition may be to add chopped nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios. The saltiness would likely cut back the richness of the dessert while adding just the ring hint of another layer of flavor and texture. In the photo above, the cake is topped with toffee bits.

Cioccolato-Mangiare Cake

You probably need three days to make this because the cioccolato-mangiare must chill overnight before assembling the cake, which must chill overnight itself (or at least several hours) to ensure it holds together; so that's two nights of chilling. The filling is actually quite simple and doesn't take too long to cook (maybe half an hour), so I recommend doing that one evening (even a weeknight, it's easy!), chilling it overnight, then baking the cake the next day, assembling it, and leaving that overnight, again.

Cioccolato-mangiare - Day 1
  • 2 qts half & half
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch (I varied this every time; use less if you want a thinner, traditional pudding-like consistency, because this filling is a bit thick and more stable, especially with the addition of chocolate)
  • 8 oz bittersweet (or dark) chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla
  • 2 tsp ground caneda 


In a large pot, mix the sugar and cornstarch; if you don't mix them, the cornstarch can more easily end up getting clumpy. Add the milk and ground caneda, mixing well. Then add the chocolate.

Bring to a slow boil, constantly stirring and making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot so that the pudding doesn't burn. Be patient, taking longer at a lower heat will ensure success; I generally cook mine around medium or medium-high, lowering the temperature, if necessary. You'll know it's getting near the finish when you can pick up big clumps of pudding in your spoon. From here, it fairly quickly comes together. .

Once the pudding has clearly come together, remove it from the heat immediately and add the vanilla.

Cover the pudding with plastic wrap, making sure they're actually touching. Don't worry about the plastic touching the hot pot and pudding, either; I promise you, it won't melt. Just be careful setting it on so that you don't burn yourself. Let the pudding cool at room temperature for a while before setting it in the fridge. Leave overnight.

The next day, beat the mixture until it becomes a fluffier consistency. I use a hand mixer directly in the pot, but you can transfer it to a bowl, if you like, or use a stand mixer. It's very thick, so this isn't something you can likely do with a whisk in your hand! 

Chocolate Cake

I'm not even going to bother writing directions for this because I just used box mix cake. Now, that goes against everything I believe in, but my mother specifically requested it for her birthday cake. I will note that I used Duncan Hines' Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix. I baked it in two 9-inch cake pans for one of the versions and switched to three for another. I find that three layers is probably best so that you end up with two thinner layers of filling rather than one thick one. I also made a rum syrup to brush over the layers, recipe to follow.

Rum Syrup (it's pretty much a simple syrup with the addition of rum)
  • 3 oz water (or about 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 3 oz sugar (about 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp)
  • 3 oz dark rum (about 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
Obviously, it's basically equal parts water, sugar, and rum--so make as much as you like and store it in the fridge or freezer! It will keep in the fridge for up to a month.


In a small saucepan (preferably one with a lid), bring the water and sugar to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Cover immediately, remove from the heat, and allow it to cool completely. Once cool, stir in the rum. 

Assembly - Day 2

This is assembled much like a trifle. Set the bottom layer of cake into a springform pan with the sides lined in wax paper. Brush or pour over some of the rum syrup, then spread the cioccolato-mangiare, covering the entire layer. Now, you can add as much or as little as you like! When making trifle-like desserts, I prefer to have just about equal amounts of cake and filling. I'd love to give you an exact measurement, but, as always, I just eyeballed it. Don't worry too much about this, though, because I assure you it will be delicious, no matter what the ratio of cake to filling.

After your first layer of cake and filling, repeat the entire process with a second layer of cake and filling. Then, simply top it all with the third layer, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge to chill overnight. Chilling is essential because the cake and filling will adhere to each other, ensuring the entire thing doesn't fall apart when you try to unmold or cut it. Because the cake layers are full rounds, rather than various pieces (like with lady fingers), it's far less likely to fall apart, but your filling will ooze out much more easily if it's not chilled for several hours first. 

If you're making a rustic cake with no outer covering of chocolate, though, there's really no need to chill over night! Just assemble the layers on a platter and you're all set. In that case, though, I do recommend adding some type of decoration to the top, such as a spreading of ganache or whipped cream with chocolate shavings (yum!)  

Final Touches - Day 3

Chocolate Ganache (remember, a variation is hot fudge, so that recipe follows)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 lbs bittersweet chocolate, chopped (unless you have morsels!)

Have your chocolate ready in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until it just comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for about 10 seconds and then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes smooth. Allow it to cool slightly, stirring occasionally. The longer you let the ganache sit, the thicker it will become. For this recipe, I let it cool a little longer so that it was still "pourable," but very thick and easy to spread, rather than sliding all over the cake like a sauce. 

The trouble you'll have covering this cake is that it's cold, so the ganache will set very quickly, which means you have to work quickly. It's also quite difficult to smooth out because of how quickly it sets. Unless your heart is set on having a perfectly covered, smoothed out layer of ganache, I'd simply pour it over the top, spread it a little bit to coax it to the edges, and let it gently fall over the layers! Rustic is just as beautiful and lends a sweet, homemade quality.

If you plan to serve the cake later, keep it in the fridge. Your ganache will definitely set in there, creating more of a shell than a creamy layer of chocolate, but it's necessary for the pudding. To be honest, everybody raved about the chocolate shell and wondered how I did it! The only problem is the difficulty cutting through it because the chocolate wants to stick to your knife...but who cares about that ;)

Oh, and I almost forgot...If you want piping like my cake, just let the ganache cool completely (again, at room temperature), so that it takes on the thickness of frosting. Then, pipe it all around your cake! I absolutely adore how it looks piped too; it's so ooey and gooey like little melty morsels of chocolate :)

Hot Fudge
  • 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or morsels)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla

Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl; in a second, small bowl, combine the cream, butter, and salt. Separately, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, cook the sugar, corn syrup, and water until the sugar is dissolved (stirring often). Increase the heat to high and bring it to a full rolling boil; cook, without stirring, until it becomes a dark amber color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Be very careful not to overcook because it will burn. If the heat seems to be uneven (you'll see one side getting dark before another), gently swirl the pan; this will then swirl the sugar mixture so that it disperses evenly without being disturbed by stirring. 

As soon as it's a dark amber, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the cream mixture and whisk together. The mixture will rise high and become very bubbly the second you add the cream; you may think it looks like it's about to boil over! Just keep whisking and it'll die down. If you're scared, use a saucepan with higher sides.

Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate, add the vanilla, and whisk until smooth.

After this, simply treat it like ganache! The longer it cools, the thicker it will become, so just wait (stirring occasionally) until it's thick enough to spread, but still a bit pourable. And, as I pointed out with the ganache, it will set quickly on the cold cake and will set fully once it's in the fridge, creating a cool, delicious shell of hot fudge.

Though the recipe appears more difficult, it's actually quite simple to make hot fudge. I burned it the first time I made it, but have only had easy success since! And it's so, so, so so so delicious. If it's a tossup between ganache and hot fudge...the fudge takes the cake, without a doubt


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