Berry Ricotta Cake

A cake with cherries pressed in the top baked in a flowery Pyrex dish

Jordan: Somehow Kitra has suggested a fruit-based cake for the second time in a row and y’all, I am here for it.

Kitra: In fairness, when I was looking at the photos for this post I also said “you’ll have to judge yours because I find the gooey strawberry bits very unappealing.”

Kitra finds cakes with fruit in them to be squishy and weird after about the first 8 hours (only slightly exaggerating).

Nah, that’s accurate. I also don’t like the way they discolor over time, and that in DC summers it only takes like a day to grow mold.

However, if you—like me—are fine with a slightly ugly cake that has to be stored in the fridge, summer is peak cake time. The fruit cooks down until it’s kind of jammy and delightful. You don’t need frosting, just some whipped cream or nothing at all. Summer fruit cakes are the ideal breakfast cake, which we’ve established many times is the ideal genre of cake.

And, while I prefer to use my fruit in a pie (highest calling for fruit), or ice cream (also good), I’m happy to keep trying them. This time I was drawn in by ricotta, which I love and also already had in my fridge.

It’s a good cake! The ricotta keeps it moist and tender, and the edges get a beautiful crispiness that contrasts well with the fluffy center.

It was also pretty easy. (Unless you use cherries and don’t have a cherry pitter which took… some time. I have stainable countertops.)

We offer some flavor combinations in the recipe notes, since the base takes on extra flavorings really well. Mine came out as a nice bright lemon cake.

And mine turned out like a good, classic coffee cake.

The one word of warning we have is that this is a very thick cake, as you can see below. This means it will serve well for breakfast or a hearty afternoon snack, but if you want a slice for a light dessert, we’ve suggested that you could get away with half the batter in a smallish pan.

I’d describe the current cake as hefty. It’s also delicious, so hefty is good.

A cake with strawberries baked into the top with a slice cut out and sitting next to it.

Berry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Serving Dumplings on Food52

Notes

Tread very cautiously with the pan here—a standard 8-inch pan will likely overflow, and even a standard 9-inch pan, which are often only 1 inch deep, may have trouble. You could try a 9-inch square pan or a deep 8- or 9-inch round. You could also halve the batter ingredients for a thin cake that fits nicely in an 8-inch round.

You can use any fruit you like in the topping, but keep in mind that some break down better than others. Kitra’s cherries were still fairly solid, though delicious; something firm like apples or pears would have a similar issue. Any sort of berry should work (halved if large, like strawberries) and stone fruit (peaches, plums, apricots) would likely be fine if chopped into large bite-sized pieces. Should you want to squeeze in as much fruit as humanly possible (a la Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry summer cake), you could probably do so.

Finally, you can tailor your flavorings to the fruit. The original uses lemon zest, which comes through strongly and is good with berries. For something like cherries or peaches, you might try omitting the zest and adding in a bit of almond extract instead.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon (optional, see note)
  • 7 tablespoons (3.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (250g) ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional, see note)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups (250g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 8 oz. fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces (see note)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease a 9-inch round cake pan (see note above).

Add the sugar and lemon zest, if using, to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, if using a handheld mixer. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is pale yellow to release some of the flavor. Add the butter and cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy.

Add the ricotta, eggs, extract(s), and lemon juice and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula once or twice. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix on low until mostly smooth; it’s fine if it’s a little clumpy, and it will be very thick.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and press fruit (cut side down, if halved) gently into the top. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out free of batter. Aim for a spot that’s mostly cake—the areas right next to the fruit may still be moist, which is fine, but if you test there you risk overbaking your cake. Let cool in the pan slightly before serving.

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