This time last year Michael and I were in Italy. We landed in Milan and spent the next ten days meandering our way to Orvietto in Umbria via Bolongna and Siena. It was from Orvietto that we were starting our 12 day walk to the coast and the island of Giglio. The weather was warm and dry (except for a overnight storm in Bolsena that bought down centuries old trees, but we happened to sleep through), the walking was perfect, the accommodation varied (farms, converted palaces, small family run hotels) and the food magnificent. Each day we walked about 20-25 kilometres, traversing old pilgrim routes, etruscan walkways and through small villages and towns. We picked fresh figs and walnuts from the trees on the side of the roads and I lamented the fact that I couldn’t bring home the rose hips and elderflowers that were growing wild and seemingly unnoticed by anyone. We ate some great food – nettle and ricotta ravioli, cauliflower carpaccio with poached egg, stuffed cuttlefish, wild boar and rabbit, faro in all sorts of guises, fresh truffles and porcini mushrooms and of course good wine to accompany it all.
For a cake lover like myself, one of the best things about eating in Italy was that it was possible to eat cake for nearly every meal, including breakfast. At various places that we stayed I managed to gather a collection of recipes for cakes suitable for breakfast. These invariably included citrus, almond meal or ricotta. I was reminded of these cakes today when I was looking for something to make for Father’s Day lunch that would use up the ricotta I had in the fridge and preferably some of the many lemons I also have. This lemon ricotta cake is moist and dense but at the same time quite light and it’s not overly sweet. You could quite easily substitute the lemon for orange.
I can’t quite bring myself to eat cake for breakfast when I’m at home so we had this for lunch with some macerated strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream but when you see the ingredients and realise that there isn’t anything that is really too bad for you, you might be tempted to have it for breakfast.
Lemon Ricotta Cake
- 450g ricotta
- 3 large eggs, separated (a lovely customer at the markets gave me a dozen duck eggs on Saturday which are perfect for this cake. Duck eggs are higher in protein than chicken eggs meaning that cakes tend to rise more – and why they are highly sought after for making a sponge cake. They also tend to be bigger than chicken eggs which may need to be taken into account, but for a recipe such as this it doesn’t make much difference)
- 100g caster sugar
- 250g almond meal
- zest of 3 lemons
- juice of 1 lemon
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Line a round springform tin with baking paper (about a 23cm one).
Put the ricotta, egg yolks, lemon zest, juice and vanilla in a food processor and whizz until it is mixed and smooth. Add the sugar and almond meal and mix again until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold the whites through the ricotta mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes. If the top looks to be getting too brown, cover with alfoil. The texture of this cake is similar to a baked cheese cake, so you will be able to tell that it is cooked when it is set, rather than testing with a skewer.
Serve with strawberries or other berries and store any left overs in the fridge.