Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ricotta, Lemon and Rosemary Cake; Three Years and Counting!

Another year has gone by and my blogging adventure now turns three. It´s impressive how time flies by, but it's even more impressive how I learned from sharing recipes with like-minded foodies myself, trying their recipes and taking note of their tips and advices.

I started thinking about a cake for this occasion a while ago. I had many ideas on my mind, but I finally went with an inspiration I had during my visit to Rome back in Easter. It wasn't my first time in this enchanting city, but as usual, it still managed to amaze me especially when I ventured out of the usual touristic hotspots.

It's needless to say what a festival for the sight and the palate Italy can be. I have been always a huge fan of Italian cuisine with all it has to offer! When I was in Rome I couldn't have enough of the usual Italian delicacies, but most importantly, I couldn't have enough gelato. Check with the locals for the best gelaterias and do pay at least one a visit. You will have a really hard time deciding which flavors to pick as there are so many on offer! My cousin recommended a gelateria located behind the famous Piazza Navona not too far from the St. Angelo bridge. As usual, the flavors on offer were just too many to sample in one visit, so I picked three scoops, one of which had yogurt, honey, rosemary and lemons. This combination just worked and I immediately knew I had to make something featuring these flavors all together. 

Therefore, for my blog's third year anniversary, I decided to use this Italian flavor combination in the celebration cake. Now, as usual I like to tweak things based on what I see works best but sometimes based on more mundane issues. Since I had three packets of ricotta in the fridge I decided to substitute the yogurt with ricotta which is after all a quintessentially Italian ingredient. Ricotta like yogurt does wonders in cakes, affecting both the flavor by making it richer and creamier and the texture by making lighter and  moist. Do try to incorporate ricotta in your baking and I am sure you will use it again and again. You can even make ricotta at home, I hope I will share with you this particular how-to soon.

Now, enough talking and let´s start baking.
For the cake you need: (3x15 cm cake pan)
  • 4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 240 g cake flour
  • 200 g fresh ricotta
  • 100 g soft butter
  • 110 g white sugar
  • 110 honey (I used rosemary honey)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of lemon zest (adjust to your taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of finely chopped rosemary (again adjust to your taste)
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 20 ml of lemon juice (4 tsp)
First combine the flour, salt and baking soda and sift.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, honey, lemon zest and rosemary, and beat until creamy and well combined. Add the ricotta and beat again until combined, then the egg yolks and again you need to whisk! To that mix, fold in the flour mixture with a spatula and then add the lemon juice.

Add a dash of salt and few drops of lemon juice to the egg whites and beat them till stiff peaks are formed.

Fold the egg whites with the ricotta mixture gently so you don't lose all the air from the whites.

Once everything is well combined, divide the batter into 3 pans, previously greased and covered with parchment paper, and bake between 25 to 30 min in a preheated oven (170C). I usually check on my cakes after 20-22 min, by inserting a skewer in the middle of the cake, if it comes clean then it's time to take the cake out of the oven, if not, leave it for few more minutes.
If you don´t want to use three 15 cm in diameter pans, you can use two ones of 20 cm in diameter. 

Let the cakes rest in the pan for 5 min, then let them cool down completely on a cooling rack.

For the frosting you will need:
  • 200 g soft butter
  • 200 g powdered sugar
  • 80 g cream cheese or ricotta
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Combine all ingredients but the lemon juice, beat until creamy and almost white in color. Add the lemon juice and beat again until combined.

Now the assembling is up to you. I opted for a naked cake i.e. a cake that's not completely frosted. I put a really generous layer of filling between the stacked cakes and then did a thin crumb coat to the outer edges covering only parts of the cakes and keeping the rest mostly visible.
In keeping with the Italian, and specifically Roman, theme of the cake, I decorated with a few branches of rosemary assembled to look like a Roman crown.

This cake is beyond delicious. It fits the bill on some many levels. It is rich, lemony, creamy, crumbly and refreshing; it does  have it all!

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