Most of my time in the kitchen is fuelled by inspiration—the sudden abundance of a seasonal ingredient, or newly-discovered dish or technique—but not this week. For once my enthusiasm had come up short, and even my extensive "must try" list failed to reinvigorate a somewhat weary head. All I knew was I felt like cake, and so I made one.
While I tend to think of cake as accompanying tea (the morning or afternoon variety), this lovely lemon almond ricotta number I happened across recently is most definitely a dessert cake. Although the combination of creamy ricotta and lemony zest produces something that in composition is both light and lush—and that would be splendid over a cup of tea with friends—there's just something in its nature that screams pudding and makes me think it will be best enjoyed post-feast; with a good dollop of crème fraîche on the side, of course.
Reasonably simple and quick to prepare it's a great everyday recipe for when company or a sweet craving calls. I found it worked best with a scattering of sharp fruit to help balance the richness of the cake itself, and while I was particularly taken by these autumn plums from my local greengrocer I'm sure anything tart and soft-fleshed would go well. So if you need to have your cake...
LEMON RICOTTA CAKE WITH AUTUMN PLUMS (Adapted from The Little Loaf)
- 120 g butter, softened
- 225 g caster sugar, divided
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- the zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
- 4 eggs, separated
- 250 g almond meal
- 200 g ricotta
- 250 g plums, roughly chopped/sliced
- 50 g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20-cm round cake tin with baking paper.
Cream together the butter and 150 g sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and lemon, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition until fully incorporated. Fold in the almond meal and ricotta and set aside.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 75 g sugar and continue to whisk until you have stiff peaks. Fold a spoonful through the almond mixture then fold through the remaining meringue until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan then scatter over the plums, followed by the flaked almonds. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes, until the edges are firm and golden and the centre of the cake has only a slight wobble. Leave in the tin to cool completely before turning out. Dust with icing sugar, to serve.