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Cleveland Style Cassata Cake: Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Low Carb

You know how when you grow up, you just assume that everyone knows the same things that you do?  You know– like how you call Pepsi “pop” or “soda.” Then, as you wise up, you start to realize that not everyone identifies things the way you do. In my house when I was little (beware– this is a really weird story), when my little brother would walk around shirtless, he would refer to his– um– little boy “boobs” as “neeners.” My mom called them the same. I seriously grew up thinking that this was a normal term that everyone used. I thought girls had boobs and boys had “neeners.” When I was 13 or 14, I mentioned the word to a friend and she said “What? what the heck are neeners?” It was an odd moment when it hit me that apparently this was a made up name for an otherwise named body part. I felt pretty stupid. Also, this might just be the weirdest entry on this blog so far.

Anyway, growing up, my grandfather’s favorite cake– one that we always seemed to get him for his birthday– was cassata cake. In Cleveland, that means buttery cake, egg custard, sliced strawberries and real whipped cream. It was simple, it was reminiscent of summer and it’s extremely nostalgic for me.

About two years ago, as I looked up a recipe for the sweet stuff, I noticed something odd: many of the recipes were for a cake made with dried fruit and rum. I dug a little deeper and found out that our version of Cassata cake– the “Cleveland” version– was actually born right here in Cleveland, Ohio in our famous Little Italy neighborhood, where you can still buy it by the slice today from Corbo’s and Presti’s Bakeries. That’s right– if you’re here on the North Coast, you’ll probably identify cassata as a strawberry-cake combo. In other parts of the country, you may know it as something (scarily) closer to a holiday fruit cake.

Anyway, I was inspired to create a true Cleveland cassata cake– only healthy. This recipe is grain free, sugar free and absolutely delicious. It’s best when you put it together the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors meld. I didn’t do this in the picture, which is why the custard is overflowing. Looks good anyway, though!  It’s not the easiest recipe, but I swear– it’s completely and totally worth it.

Grain Free, Sugar Free, Low Carb Cassata Cake (CLEVELAND style!)







1 1/3 C almond flour
3 T coconut flour
½ cup Swerve (or granulated erythritol)
10 drops liquid stevia extract (or 2 T Stevia in the Raw)
1/2 cup sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup melted pastured butter
1/3 cup water
¼ cup heavy pastured cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder 
2 eggs
½ cup water
½ cup heavy pastured cream
½ C Swerve sweetener
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
Whipped Cream:
1/2 C heavy pastured cream
3 T Swerve powdered (or powdered erythritol)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C sliced fresh strawberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8 inch circular cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, prepare the  cake. Combine almond and coconut flours, sweeteners, vanilla, baking powder, vanilla and water. Mix well.
  3. Add in eggs, cream, sour cream and egg. Mix well.
  4. Pour cake batter into cake pan and bake on the middle rack for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place in the refrigerator to cool when done.
  5. While the cake bakes, prepare the custard. Start by beating the eggs until light yellow and fluffy in a medium sized bow. Set aside.
  6. In a small sauce pan, combine the cream, water, sweetener, vanilla, lemon extract and xanthan gum. Cook over low heat while whisking constantly until mixture starts to bubble (do not allow to actually boil).
  7. Slowly pour the eggs into the hot cream mixture while whisking constantly. Do not stop whisking or the egg will clump up.
  8. Return the pan to low heat and whisk constantly; about five minutes– or until the mixture becomes thick. Remove it from heat and place in a small bowl and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes to cool down and thicken.
  9. When you remove the cake, allow it to cool for 15 minutes in the refrigerator, then carefully turn it onto a plate to cool completely.
  10. Next, whip the cream. Combine cream and vanilla and beat on high with the whip attachment of an electric mixer. When it reaches weak peaks, add in the powdered sweetener. Then continue to beat– about 30 seconds– until the sweetener is incorporated and stiff peaks form. DO NOT OVERBEAT.
  11. Once all items have cooled, very carefully cut the cake into two layers of equal thickness.
  12. Put the bottom layer onto a plate and smother with most of the custard mixture and 3/4 cup of diced raw strawberries.
  13. Top with the second layer and apply a bit more custard. Frost the cake with the whipped cream mixture and garnish with additional strawberries. Keep refrigerated.
  14. Cake is best eaten after it sits in the refrigerator overnight so some of the custard soaks into the cake.
  15. Enjoy!


Nutrition: (1 10th of cake): 330 calories, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber (5 g net carbs), 30 g fat, 5 g protein 

Need Ingredients for That Recipe?


It takes a lot of trial and error to find the "right" fit for a low carb recipe. I have made some ... different low carb desserts. You don't need to go through that! I made a list of my favorite ingredients as well as what stores you can find them at. Enjoy!

About the author

Leeann Teagno

Eating healthy, for me, is about more than weight loss like it used to be. It’s about controlling my blood sugar levels and obtaining normal–or relatively normal–hormone levels. I still struggle to lose weight efficiently, but eating a wheat, sugar and gluten free diet helps to control some of the problems I’ve encountered with these health issues of mine.


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