Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Popular Demand - Lemon Ricotta Cake
Dairy products and I have a love-hate relationship. Milk, for example, is the nectar of the devil. It tastes awful and it makes me sick to my stomach. I need it on occasion to bake, but that is it. Consequently, it is really hard for me to tell if milk has spoiled. I have to rely entirely on how it smells, because it always tastes off to me. Cheese on the other hand, I adore. Hard cheeses, soft cheeses, stinky blue, creamy brie, nutty gruyere. So deliciously happy-making. However, in between these lie a sort of dairy limbo that includes yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta. On any given day I can enjoy one of these thoroughly, or take against it. The latter is particularly true when freshness is in question. No amount of rational thought can ease my worries. I simply can't. Just can't. Hate. And this exact thing happened when I went to use up the ricotta from the tomato crostini. It had only been open a few days. The expiration date swore it was fine. But that nagging little dairy fairy on my shoulder was saying "ew" really loudly. And I decided the only way to deal with it was to make sure the ricotta was baked. Because somehow, that would make it okay. (Which is ridiculous, because of course it was okay, I swear I'm not baking with nasty ricotta here). Lucky for me, using up dairy that irrationally scares me can result in a completely heavenly dessert. Like little clouds of lemony cakey goodness. And the pendulum swings back to love.
LEMON RICOTTA CAKE
inspired by Giada De Laurentiis
1 1/2 C flour (all-purpose will do)
2 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 C salted butter (this is 1 1/2 sticks) plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C ricotta cheese (I used part skim and it worked fine).
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest from 1-2 lemons
powdered sugar for dusting
optional: 1/4 to 1/2 C lemon curd
Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" round cake pan.
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar (about 3 minutes). Add the ricotta and mix until incorporated. One at a time add the eggs, mixing between each. Then add your vanilla, lemon juice and zest. In a bowl,combine the flour and baking powder. Add your dry ingredients and give it a final mix. My batter was lumpy and also all the zest attached itself to the paddle. I fixed the zest problem by tossing it back into the batter and quickly mixing with a spatula before pouring it in to the cake pan. The lumps baked themselves away. Bake for 35-40 minutes. It is done when a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Optional section: If you like, slice the cake in half so it has two layers (Doesn't that sound easy? It was my first attempt at something like that and those were not so even. Oh well.) Then spread lemon curd on the bottom layer. I used a quarter cup because I wanted it to be subtle, but it may have been almost too subtle so I might move up to a half cup next time. Or maybe I'll just be lazy and not do it at all. Either way.
Serve with powdered sugar on top (you do this by holding a fine mesh strainer over the cake, pouring in a bit of sugar and then tapping the side of the strainer gently so the powder comes down). If you are serving the whole cake at party powder it all at once, if you're eating the slices for dessert each night powder a slice at a time.