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Ricotta Revisited: Part 1, The Pound Cake

Whenever I bake, my husband’s co-workers are usually the lucky recipients of the goodies.

I load him up with the fresh, sweet treats to take to the office. And when he comes home in the evening, I await to hear what verdict has been rendered upon them.

Usually, they get the thumb’s up. But for one co-worker, there has always been a qualifier associated with them.

Ramin will happily nosh on one of my muffins or cupcakes. Then, he’ll tell my husband, “This is good. But when is your wife going to make that pound cake again?”

Apparently, this happens with regularity.

It doesn’t matter if it’s chocolate-chunk cookies or cinnamon-sugar dusted banana bread that I’ve made that week. Ramin will enjoy it, but deep down, he’s longing for the ricotta pound cake.

Since I can’t stand to see a grown-man in pound cake-pain (definitely not a pretty sight), I made him his beloved pound cake two weeks ago.

Ramin first tasted it a year and a half ago, when I first tried the incredible recipe from “Dolce Italiano” (W.W. Norton & Company) by Gina DePalma. I can’t blame him for lusting after it. I, do, too. As he exclaimed on his first bite, “It’s not dry like other pound cakes!” Indeed, this version is nothing like most cottony pound cakes. With 1 1/2 cups of ricotta (full-fat no less) mixed into the batter, this pound cake is so moist, rich, vanilla-y, and buttery.

The recipe says it’s actually better the next day because the crumb compacts and becomes more dense. But I actually like it just after it’s cooled down after being taken out of the oven. The crumb is a little fluffier then, and the top crust of the loaf is still crispy and crackly. Sometimes, I just want to tear the entire top off and devour it right then and there.

A sprinkle of powdered sugar over the top of the loaf is all you need, though fresh berries are always a welcome addition, too.

Ramin, this one’s for you.

Ricotta Pound Cake

(makes one 9-inch cake, about 10 servings)

1 1/2 cups cake flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 vanilla bean

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream togther butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with blunt side of a small knife, then beat them into batter along with vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients to combine them, scrape down sides of the bowl, and beat batter for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Give the pan a few gentle whacks on the counter to remove any air pockets. Bake cake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking until the cake springs back lightly when touched, the sides have begun to pull away from the pan, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes more. Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert it onto the rack to cool completely.

Dust cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving it; the flavor is best on the next day. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. The cake also freezes beautifully, wrapped in plastic, and place in a large, sealable plastic bag.

From “Dolce Italiano”

More ricotta recipes: Lemon Ricotta Muffins; Ricotta Biscuits with Dried Cherries, Apricots & Raspberries.

Tomorrow: Ricotta Revisited: Part 2, The Pasta Sauce.