Well, it only took 4 attempts…
I’m the type that can’t rest until I’ve conquered a recipe that’s been nagging at my subconscious.
I’ll think about day in and day out and until I pass out.
A traditional almond ricotta cake is sweet, and lightly scented with almond and lemon. The texture is notably ‘squidgy’ due to the fact that it’s flourless, made with almond meal only.
The problem is, the majority of our house prefers a more bouncy, cake-like texture.
And so the mission began…
I tested this cake with the heightening power of whipped egg whites, without egg whites, almond paste, without almond paste, all-purpose flour, without all-purpose flour, different flavored extracts…
I’ve learned there are many different variations, and rightfully so, as this cake has roots in Italy and varies according to region (and Italian Nona).
My version certainly doesn’t claim to be traditional.
But it celebrates the integrity of its origins with a few shortcuts to make life easier.
This recipe requires only one bowl, and the batter is easily mixed by hand.
There are no egg whites to whip, which saves on time and clean up (and sanity if the term ‘stiff peaks’ freaks you out).
Almond extract is used instead of almond paste, as it’s easier to find.
Cold ricotta is used instead of room temperature ricotta (who has time to wait for room temperature anything?). Because there is melted butter in this recipe, the residual heat helps to loosen up the ricotta. It doesn’t necessarily warm up the batter, but mixing is easier and it is less likely to seize up.
For best results, make sure to follow the exact mixing procedure outlined in the recipe below.
How to Make it Cake-Like
This cake wouldn’t be almond cake without almond meal.
However, too much almond meal will make it more dense and ‘squidgy’ as mentioned above.
So, to give it that cake-like texture I was looking for, the addition of all-purpose flour was necessary. Also, liquid in the form of 4 eggs helps to loosen the batter. This accounts for a more cake-like texture as well.
I’ll admit that it took several attempts to get the exact ratio of ingredients pinned down, but that’s half of the fun!
Well, at least for the recipe obsessed…
See? Simple, right?
Don’t forget to dust the top with powdered sugar when completely cool, and then cut into wedges.
The texture is smooth, soft, and velvety. It’s not super bouncy like birthday cake, but it’s definitely not as ‘squidgy’ as the traditional version.
And, in case you’re wondering, the almond and lemon flavors are subtle and do not dominate at all. It’s just enough to make you go Mmm…
Serve with a dollop of pillowy whipped cream, and sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar, if you’d like.
Just imagine all of those strawberry juices poured over the top of a big, thick slice…
• • • • • • • • •
Tips: This cake was made with almond meal, which accounts for its darker chestnut color. You can also use blanched almond meal (also known as almond flour) for a more golden ‘blonde’ look. Blanched almond meal is usually more expensive.
Store any unused almond meal in the freezer. It will last longer.
When measuring the almond meal and flour (respectively), gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup. Do not pack. This will yield the most accurate measurement, which is important.
Substitutions: You can leave out the lemon zest (it’s mild, as mentioned above). But don’t leave out the almond extract; it adds essential flavor.
However… my husband does’t care for almond, so I made a version just for him with vanilla extract, and no zest. It was delicious, but a completely different cake.
Make-Ahead: This is best served on the same day that it is baked. Otherwise, the almonds will lose their crunch as the cake becomes softer overtime. Just make it in the morning to serve later.
- pat of butter, for coating the pan
- sprinkle of sugar
- 1 stick (113 g) of unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- zest of 2 lemons, preferably organic & unwaxed
- 1 capful of pure almond extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup ricotta, part skim or whole
- 1½ cups almond meal*
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ cup flaked almonds, plus more as needed
- powdered sugar, for decoration
- fresh whipped cream
- sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Sprinkle with sugar.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the melted butter, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and almond extract. Whisk to combine.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add the ricotta and continue to whisk with gusto until there are no lumps present (a few small lumps are ok, but the batter shouldn't look like cottage cheese). This step is essential for a light and fluffy texture.
- Add the almond meal, flour, and baking powder. Mix gently to combine.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
- Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
- Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes (check at the 35 minute mark). Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake; if it comes out clean it's ready.
- Cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove the outer ring to finish cooling.
- Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
- Cut into slices and serve.