Lemon Ricotta Cake…

No one will deny that we are currently living in unprecedented times. With the country being ravaged by the coronavirus and people scrambling to figure out how to shelter at home without losing their minds, it comes as no surprise that many people are turning to cooking. Cooking (and eating) has always been associated with comfort. And at this point in time we need all the comfort we can get.

We are under a stay at home order here in Colorado so venturing outside can only be done for essential things, like going to the grocery store. When I last visited my grocery store I found it fascinating that the baking isles were heavily picked over. It was hard to find flour or eggs. I laughed when I saw there were hardly any boxed cake mixes on the shelves. And try to find flour tortillas – well I guess people are indulging their taste for Mexican food during quarantine.

I’ve been trying to limit my trips to the store as much as possible so sometimes I buy larger containers of things that will last a longer period of time. The other day I was planning on making some stuffed shells (that recipe soon to be posted) and so I purchased a large container of ricotta cheese. I did not anticipate the amount I would have left and began thinking about how I could use the remaining ricotta. And this is how I used it…

So let’s talk lemon ricotta cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Beat the ricotta into the butter/sugar mixture really well: Ricotta is rather thick and when using it in baking it can cause lumps unless you beat it well. I found that using whole milk ricotta is the best for this cake. Make sure you beat the mixture for at least 3 minutes or until you see the mixture is smooth and creamy. Also make sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the the mixing bowl. I found when using a stand mixer that a very small portion of ingredients tends to clump right at the very base of the beater. Don’t forget to scrape there as well.

What the ricotta batter should look like

Well Mixed Ricotta Batter

Lesson Learned 2 – Grease the sides and bottom of a spring form pan with butter and dust it with powdered sugar: I read about this trick online and it is a great way to add some additional sweetness to the outside of the cake. Even though you use 1 1/2 cups of sugar in this recipe the cake does not taste overly sweet. The lemon juice and zest balance out the sweetness quite nicely.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t make the mistake I made: Every cook makes mistakes, even the most adept ones. I went about making this cake the way I normally bake or cook, prepping all of the ingredients first and then following the process. I did really well until I put the batter in the prepared pan and then realized I didn’t incorporate the baking soda into the batter. UGHHH!

In my mind I had three choices – 1: Start all over again (which I did not want to do) 2: Bake the cake without the baking soda (baking soda is a leavening agent that makes the cake rise so I didn’t want to do that) or 3: Figure out a way to incorporate the baking soda (it was only a half of a teaspoon so I sprinkled it all over the top of the batter and mixed it in with a spoon stirring it well but being careful not to touch the sides or bottom of the prepared pan. To my amazement it worked beautifully). So keep in mind that even the best of cooks need to improvise when they make a mistake. Not all fixes turn out as well as this one did. I was lucky this time.

Lesson Learned 4 – Try using vanilla bean paste: I was made aware of vanilla bean paste during a cooking class and I love it. I don’t use it all the time as a jar can be quite expensive ($20 or so) but in dishes where I want a richer vanilla flavor I use the paste. I wouldn’t use it for making cookies but for cakes or custards it adds much more depth of flavor. It measures just like vanilla extract (a teaspoon for a teaspoon) but it gives a much richer vanilla flavor than extract. If you can afford it try it sometime.

And that’s it. Making the cake is very easy. The cake is creamy and not overly sweet. It’s great as a dessert or a breakfast treat. I know you will enjoy this one…

Lemon Ricotta Cake...

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

1 large lemon, juiced and zested

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups flour

Powdered sugar for dusting the pan and the top of the cake

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a spring form pan with butter and dust the bottom and sides with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese and mix until smooth and creamy, at least 3 minutes or more.

Mix the eggs in one at a time. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix to combine. Stir in the baking soda and salt. Add the flour and mix until just combined (you can add all the flour in at once).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let the cake cool completely before dusting it with powdered sugar.

Right Out Of The Oven

Raspberry Riccota Coffee Cake…

Rasberry Cheese Coffee Cake

There’s nothing like the taste of a good coffee cake with your morning cup of Jo, or at least that’s how I feel. And I am particularly fond of baking with raspberries. Not only are they colorful but I also like their tartness which I feel balances the sweetness of a cake batter beautifully.

My husband is a sweets fanatic. He’s one of those that can eat sweets and not put on a pound, although I have to say he’s also very good at moderating what he eats. So I guess I can’t fault him for being good about what he eats and still including sweets in his diet.

Because of his sweet tooth, I like experimenting with things I bake to see what will interest him the most. This recipe got a thumbs up from him (with qualifications regarding the amount of raspberries which I will explain in lessons learned) and will definitely be something that I make again and again.

So let’s talk Raspberry Ricotta Coffee Cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The batter in this recipe is thick: And I mean VERY THICK. I have to say I was a little surprised at how thick the batter was. I feared the cake would be a dried out mess, but I was wrong. I think the ricotta cheese, the cheese used in this recipe, makes the batter thicker but also makes the cake light and moist. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Thick Batter

Working with batter like this can be a challenge. This is the kind of recipe where you layer part of the batter in the pan, add the raspberries and then cover them with the remaining batter. I recommend you make this division close to half and half and here’s why. I had a hard time smoothing out the batter, especially the top layer. You will need as much batter as possible to get the job done. Dividing the batter in half did the trick.

I recommend taking the batter for the top layer and putting it in clumps all over as seen in the picture below:

That way it will help in the spreading out process. But even with this, spreading was still a little bit of a challenge. The raspberries underneath did not want to stay in place while I was attempting to smooth out the batter. Finally I just decided to wash my hands thoroughly and use my hands to press the batter down and out. That seemed to work a little better. Once the top was sufficiently covered I used my frosting spreader tool and smoothed out the top as seen below:

It really helped to start off with the clumps of batter spread out as much as possible over the top. I highly recommend you do that. Although getting it spread out was a little bit of a challenge it was much easier with the batter in various places versus trying to work from just one place.

Also make sure you use a stand mixer for the recipe. A hand mixer won’t work with the thickness of this batter. And mix the batter on low, otherwise you might face burning out the motor on your mixer. Yes, the batter is that thick, but no problem when you mix it on low.

Lesson Learned 2 – Really cover the center of the cake with raspberries: The recipe I based this on called for a heaping cup of raspberries, using 2/3 for the center and 1/3 for the top. In doing that the center of the cake looked like the picture below:

The Center Of The Cake

This was not nearly enough raspberries. Once the cake was baked it seemed like there were only a few raspberries in the center. Some slices did have a few more, but some seemed to have hardly any. Next time I make this I will add even more raspberries – so at this point I will recommend a heaping cup and quarter of raspberries with the greater majority being placed in the middle layer of the cake. The raspberries are what give the cake a special taste – that great balance of tart and sweet –  and I felt they should be more predominant in the cake. Baking it this way the cake turned out fine – but I will definitely add more raspberries the next time.

Lesson Learned 3 – Try adding a dollop of Cool Whip on the cake: My husband discovered this on his own. He thought the Cool Whip was a great addition to the cake. And yes, of course, you could always make some fresh whipped cream, but if you’re in a hurry a little Cool Whip will do just fine and will send the flavor over the top.

Lesson Learned 4 – The valuable lessons I’ve learned: Since the very beginning of writing this blog I’ve used the tag line “From The Cook Who Never Could…” and that, for a long time time, was so very true of me. I never had success in the kitchen because, first of all, I had no frame of reference. My mother was not a cook. Her idea of a meal was to overcook meat, have some kind of potato with it and open a can of corn or peas. Mind you, I am not knocking my mother here. She was a working mom at a time when most women were still staying at home and she had to figure out how to balance a job on the night shift with a husband and two children at a time when hardly anyone else was doing it. My dad helped a little, but his specialty was making bacon and eggs and oatmeal (he normally was in charge of the breakfast detail). So there was not a lot of opportunities for me to learn about cooking at home.

Once I became interested in cooking I found the hardest thing for me was bouncing back after my failures. I always expected things to turn out perfectly the first time and when they didn’t I blamed it on my lack of skills and became very disheartened. It’s only as I got older and began to really learn about the art and science of cooking and baking that I became much more forgiving of myself when things did not turn out as planned.

There is always something you can learn when you cook or bake something. And I hope you know that even the best of cooks don’t always get it perfect the first time around. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.  So even with this recipe, when the concentration of raspberries was not what I would have wanted, I realized the cake in itself was still quite good and not a failure. It just needed, in my estimation, a little improvement.

Don’t make my mistake and blame yourself or your skills if something does not turn out the way you planned the first time.  And certainly don’t give up on yourself. Use what you learn and continue to improve your skills. It’s all part of the process.

So I hope you make this one – and I will write the recipe adding more raspberries. It’s a lesson I learned making this cake – one of many lessons I am sure I’ll continue to learn in the future. Enjoy!

Raspberry Ricotta Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Coffee Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/4 heaping cups of frozen raspberries

15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese

Baking spray with flour

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

1 – 2 Tbs. milk or water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325  (350 for high altitude). Line the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the ricotta and blend until smooth. Add another 1/3 of the flour and beat on low until incorporated (due to the thickness of the batter it is important to only beat this on low). Add the remaining ricotta and blend until combined. Beat in the remaining flour on low until incorporated. Make sure the batter is well mixed.

Spray the springform pan with the baking spray. Pour in 1/2 of the batter and smooth out around the pan. Add 1 heaping cup of frozen raspberries and arrange evenly over the top. (If the top doesn’t look sufficiently full of raspberries add a little more from what you have remaining).

Spoon out the remaining batter in clumps over the top of the raspberries. Spread the batter out to cover the top. (NOTE: If using a spreader becomes too difficult, thoroughly wash your hands and use them to press the batter down and out). Smooth out the batter to evenly cover the top of the pan.

Take the remaining frozen raspberries and using your hands press them down across the batter on top.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool at least 20 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.

Once cooled drizzle the glaze over the top. Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar with the almond extract and milk or water. Use one tablespoon of liquid initially and check the consistency of the glaze. If the glaze it too thick add more liquid.

Cake Right Out Of The Oven

Rasberry Cheese Coffee Cake