A combination of cake and cheesecake, this delicious Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake is a one-bowl, no-mixer recipe you can throw together in minutes!
You may have noticed that I'm kind of obsessed with one-bowl, no-mixer recipes like this Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake. I love that these cakes can be made in minutes and it's a win-win when they also elicit rave-worthy results. They're perfect for busy weekdays when you need a dessert in a hurry, as well as for dinner parties when there are a zillion other things to do to get ready.
If you're looking for a cake that's universally appealing, a lemon cake seems to always be really well received. I've been making this French Grandmothers Lemon Yogurt Cake for years and it never fails to receive wonderful reviews.
I decided a new lemon dessert was long overdue and this Lemon Ricotta Cake has been just as popular with guests around our table. It seems that even the die-hard chocolate lovers have fallen head-over-heels in love with this delicious citrusy cake.
What is a ricotta cake?
Ricotta cake is an Italian-inspired dessert that includes ricotta cheese as one of the main ingredients. Ricotta cakes can be found at every la panetteria (bakery) and supermarket throughout Italy. Although there are lots of variations, depending on the region, ricotta cake is a universally beloved Italian dessert.
Ricotta cake is similar to pound cake in that it's denser than a traditional cake, while at the same time being incredibly moist, soft and buttery. To me, the texture is halfway between cake and cheesecake. It cuts into wedges nicely with clean, sharp edges. My lemon ricotta cake isn't super sweet, making the layer of lemon buttercream icing a perfect pairing.
Which flowers are edible?
A super easy way to decorate cakes? Edible flowers! Yes, there are lots of edible flowers including pansies, hibiscus, dandelions, lavender, honeysuckle, roses, nasturtium and violets. I was thrilled to discover recently that primroses are also edible. I'm pretty sure that if you look up the definition of "cheerful" you might just see a picture of a bouquet or bed of primroses. They come in the most delightful colors and add a lovely touch of cheer! The leaves are also edible and can be used in salads and other savory dishes in addition to desserts.
This easy lemon ricotta cake will be perfect for Easter, Mother's Day or any occasion coming up. Pin it now so it will be right there when you need it!
Café Tips for making this Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
- Don't overmix this cake batter to ensure a tender crumb. When you add the dry ingredients, mix with a sturdy spatula just until the flour mixture is incorporated.
- I like to use an 8-inch cake pan for this cake. You can use a 9-inch pan, in a pinch, but the resulting cake will not be as tall. I love these Oxo Good Grips non-stick cake pans as well as the other bakeware in that series. That being said, my 8-inch pan is 2 inches high (the OXO pan mentioned above). If you have a lower pan, you may want to use a 9-inch so it doesn't overflow.
- It's important to line your cake pan with parchment paper for easy removal. I LOVE these pre-cut parchment paper rounds. They're not expensive, save time and a pack will last forever.
- This recipe calls for finely grated lemon zest. Best way to do this? A zester-grater is a super easy way to zest citrus fruit. It also works well for hard cheese, chocolate, ginger and garlic. Zester-graters do get dull with frequent use. If you find yours isn't working that well it may need to be replaced. I replace mine every 2-3 years.
- In addition to lemon zest, there is vanilla and a small amount of almond extract in this cake. The combination might sound odd but it is wonderful. The small amount of almond extract adds a delicious "fine" European flavor.
- This lemon ricotta can be made in advance and refrigerated, but it tastes best served at room temperature.
- The lemon buttercream is a delicious final touch for this lemon ricotta cake but if you're in a hurry or don't care for icing, a simple sprinkle of powdered sugar is also delicious.
- To ice this cake with the buttercream, an angled icing spatula is super handy. I plop all of the icing onto the top of the cake and then spread it to the outer edges and down over the sides with the angled spatula.
- I prefer using whole milk ricotta.
A combination of cake and cheesecake, this delicious Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake is a one-bowl, no-mixer recipe that you can throw together in minutes.
- ½ cup butter 4 ounces
- 1 ½ cups ricotta
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest from 2 medium size lemons
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 ½ tablespoons half & half (or whole milk)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Spray an 8-inch round pan with baking spray, then rub all over with a paper towel to evenly coat pan with spray. Line the pan with parchment paper. Spray lightly again, making sure to coat bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside.
Melt butter in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl (on high power for 45-60 seconds). Remove from microwave and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add sugar, eggs, lemon zest and extracts. Whisk together until well blended. Add ricotta and stir until light and fluffy (about 30 seconds).
Sprinkle flour, baking powder, and salt over the top of the ricotta mixture and stir just until all the flour is incorporated.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife or spatula. Place in preheated oven and immediately lower temperature to 350˚F. Bake for 38-42 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched on the top and/or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be lightly golden. The top may crack slightly, that’s okay.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool completely before adding the icing. When cool, transfer to a serving platter (keep flat, bottom side up) and ice with buttercream.
While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high power until melted, 30-40 seconds.
Add all other icing ingredients and whisk together until creamy and well blended. It should be a somewhat loose but spreadable icing. If too thick add a bit more half and half. If too thin add a bit more powdered sugar.
10. Scoop icing onto the top of the cake. Spread (with an angled spatula) to the edges and down the sides of the cake. Decorate with edible flowers, if desired. Allow icing to set before slicing. Can be refrigerated, but bring back to room temperature before serving.
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