Ricotta cheese is a very versatile ingredient to have in the kitchen, as it works equally well in sweet and savory applications. Of course, while I love a classic ravioli, I happen to be partial to the sweeter side of things and often use ricotta in my desserts. I particularly like it in cheesecakes, where it creates a lighter, fluffier finished product than a recipe that uses cream cheese alone. It has the opposite effect when added to more traditional cake recipes, giving this Lemon Ricotta Cake a delightfully rich texture.
The cake is not overly sweet, so you can taste a hint of the ricotta’s mild flavor along with vanilla, almond and fresh lemon zest. The cake is moist and dense, with a nod to both cheesecake and poundcake, though this cake is really in a class by itself. Since the cake feels very rich, I opted to give it a crispy sugary topping made simply by generously sprinkling coarse sugar over the batter before baking. The sugar gives the cake a little extra sweetness and provides a nice contrast to the fluffy cake below.
I baked this cake in a 9-inch springform pan. You could bake it in a regular cake pan, but I highly recommend sticking to a springform if you have one. The reason that I prefer springforms for this cake is that it is both fairly heavy and very tender. When the cake has completely cooked, it is quite sturdy, but it will crumble fairly easily while it is still warm from the oven and using a springform simply helps ensure that the cake goes from pan to plate in one perfect piece.
The cake can be served on its own, or paired with a dollop of whipped cream. The cake also pairs wonderfully with coffee, so I’ve served it for both brunch and dessert with great success. It keeps very well, though the sugary topping will start to lose its crunch once the cake has been transferred to an airtight container, and you can prepare it a day or two ahead of when you plan to serve it.
Lemon Ricotta Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Take out a 9-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in eggs, ricotta cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, milk and both vanilla and almond extracts. Start whisking the egg mixture together, gradually incorporating all the flour until the batter is uniform and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Add in melted butter and whisk until completely incorporated.
Pour batter into springform pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake evenly with coarse sugar.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only moist crumbs attached.
Allow cake to cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving.