Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Italian Ricotta Cake

ricotta cake

I really don't deal well when things don't work in the kitchen. There's usually some form of tantrum, many curse words and occasionally there's even some utensil throwing. Over the weekend, I was visiting home for Fathers Day, and I attempted to make a Ricotta Cake for my Dad.

Things were going well. The pastry and the ricotta mixture came together perfectly. We'd just had lunch, the cake was cooling off in the oven after baking, and then Dad said, 'I think I can smell something burning'. I had switched the oven off, but went to check anyway. I cracked the oven door open a little and was greeted with a massive cloud of smoke and this very, very sad looking state of affairs....

fail

You see, what I did not realise, was that the grill had turned on mysteriously, and for 15 minutes or so had been absolutely toasting the top of the cake. We were lucky not to set off the smoke alarms! I instagrammed my epic failure (to prove that I'm no domestic goddess, and that I eff up too sometimes) and was ready to throw the damn thing out the window. But Dad was determined to salvage the cake, knowing how long I had spent making it that morning.

While I was off photographing another dessert, he carefully cut off all the burnt bits. Luckily, this kind of cake has to be inverted anyway, so the bottom became the top. My sister decorated it with strawberries, and when I returned, it looked more like this....

ricotta cake

Pretty damn gorgeous, right?! And it tasted even better. The ricotta cheesecake filling was incredibly light in texture, flavoured with lots of vanilla bean, cinnamon, orange zest and Frangelico. I now find it a little hard to believe that I used to hate ricotta, because this is probably one of the most delicious things that I've baked in a while, and a big hit with the family. I think it's going to become one of our favourites.

Credit must be given of course, to my very clever Dad and sister Beth who worked together to salvage my very sad, burnt cake and turned it into something beautiful. This isn't the first time he's helped me salvage a cooking experiment/failure that I was about to give up on, and it probably won't be the last. Happy Father's Day to the best Dad around! xx

ricotta cake

Italian Ricotta Cake
Serves 10
Adapted from Real Living

Pastry
  • 1 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 140g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
Filling
  • 185g cream cheese
  • 450g ricotta
  • ¾ + ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons Frangelico
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped)
  • 2½ tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of half an orange
  • ¼ cup cream
  • Plain flour, for rolling
  • Icing sugar for dusting cake
  • Strawberries, for decorating

Sift flour, icing sugar, baking powder and salt into bowl of food processor. Add chopped cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With motor running, add egg and process until dough forms a ball. Remove from processor and separate one third of the dough, flatten to a disc and wrap in cling wrap. Flatten remaining dough and wrap in cling wrap. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan). Mix cream cheese and ricotta in the bowl of electric mixer using the whisk attachment for a few minutes or until smooth. Incorporate egg yolks one at a time, alternating with ¾ cup sugar a little at a time. Add Frangelico and vanilla bean paste and whisk well to combine. Add flour, cinnamon and orange zest and whisk to combine.

In separate bowl, lightly whip eggwhites with handheld beaters, then add ¼ cup of sugar a little at a time. Whip until thick and glossy. Whip cream in a separate bowl to firm peaks. Fold cream through cheese mixture until almost combined. Gently fold eggwhites through cheese mixture.

Line base of tin with a round of baking paper. Lightly flour a flat, cool surface and, using floured rolling pin, roll larger disc of pastry out to 2.5mm thick. Roll pastry onto the rolling pin, brush off excess flour and lay floured side up into tin. Press into base and sides of tin so that pastry comes right to top of tin. Fill with cheese mixture.

Roll remaining pastry on a floured surface so that it's large enough to overlap top of tin by 1cm. Brush off excess flour and lay on top of cheese filling. Press against sides to seal pastry together. Trim excess pastry with small knife and roll inwards, away from edge of tin.

Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 180°C (160°C fan) for about 50 minutes until cake is lightly golden. Turn off oven and allow cake to sit for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Carefully invert cake onto a serving platter so that top is now the base. Serve dusted with icing sugar, and topped with strawberries and slice. It tastes delicious served cold or at room temperature.

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