Louisa’s Cake

A sunny ricotta cake that is so moist, buttery, and rich.
A sunny ricotta cake that is so moist, buttery, and rich.

We all grew up seeing our parents and grand-parents, who lived through the Great Depression, wars, and/or famines, take care — to the extreme — to not let any drop of sauce from a can, any heel of bread or any minute shred of fish off the bone ever go to waste.

Not on their watch.

And now, not on ours, either.

With the pandemic creating food shortages — both real and exaggerated ones — we find ourselves looking at food much differently now, treating everything with the reverence it deserved all along.

The very bottom stems of parsley that I once tossed? No more. Now, they get finely diced and tossed into salads and soups. Those radish tops I once never looked twice at? Now, I savor them sauteed in an egg scramble.

The leftover ricotta I had from making lamb meatballs? Not that I would deign to ever throw something like that out, but these days, it takes on an outsize importance. Yes, that leftover ricotta that I once just nonchalantly enjoyed with berries for breakfast the next day, now seemed too good for that. Clearly, it should be destined for something far more special, I thought.

I found exactly that in “Louisa’s Cake.”

I don’t know who Louisa is except that she’s an American art director and graphic designer living in Zurich, according to the recipe in “The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2: Seasonal Recipes from Our Kitchens to Yours” (William Morrow, 2012) by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, and the Food52 community.

And she surely knows how to design a cake. This one is baked with a generous amount of butter, ricotta, lemon zest, and surprisingly, grated apple.

You don’t taste the apple. In fact, you’d never guess it was there from eating this cake.

It adds moisture, as does the ricotta, along with a little more body to the batter.

This sunny-yellow cake is incredibly moist, very buttery, and quite rich. There’s almost a backbone taste of creamy milkiness to it. Its crumb is somehow compact yet fluffy and light.

This is as easy and straightforward a cake as there is. It’s not full of frills and flourishes, which it certainly doesn’t need.

It may be called Louisa’s Cake. But really, it’s everybody’s cake, because it’s truly that ideal of a one.

A wonderful treat for brunch, dessert, Mother's Day, or any ol' time.
A wonderful treat for brunch, dessert, Mother’s Day, or any ol’ time.

Louisa’s Cake

(Serves 6)

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 large eggs

Pinch of salt

1 cup fresh ricotta

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 apple, peeled, cored, and grated (should yield about 1 cup)

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour, then add the salt, ricotta, lemon zest, baking powder, and apple, mixing well after each addition.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

From “The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

Another “Food52, Volume 2” Recipe: Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette and Marcona Almonds

More Ways to Use Ricotta: Ricotta Pound Cake

And: Lamb-Ricotta Meaballs

And: Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta

And: Lemon Ricotta Muffins

And: Mezze Maniche with Guanciale, Chiles, and Ricotta

And: Penne with Ricotta, Parmesan, and Peas

And: Quick-Pickled Grape Tomatoes on Ricotta Toast

Plus: Planked Wild Salmon with Nectarines, Thyme, Honey, Almonds, and Ricotta

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  • The apple is an interesting component. Looks so tasty! 🙂

  • Tami: Right? And yet you don’t taste it in the cake. So interesting, indeed. Happy baking!

  • Laura in Texas

    I’ll have to try this. I have ricotta and still have some Meyer lemons on the tree and apples in the fruit bowl! Thanks for the new idea.

  • Laura: I made this because I had leftover ricotta from a meatball recipe. But this cake is so good that next time I will hunt down ricotta specifically to bake this cake again. Enjoy!

  • a perfect cake/baking project for these times.

  • too many times my ricotta turns pink before i can find something else to make with it. next time i’ll have a very good way to use it!

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