Here is a recipe for fresh ricotta citrus cake that is completely from scratch- right down to the ricotta! It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it! This ricotta cake has the flavors of orange and lemon along with a little touch of almond extract. It’s not super sweet, which I think is quite nice. The texture is dense and moist and it goes so well with coffee or tea.
I’ll cut to the chase and give you the recipe right away, but read beyond that for extra notes about this cake.
Fresh Ricotta Citrus Cake
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 orange
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- powdered sugar optional
First things first!
- Zest lemons and then juice them. You should have about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 1 tablespoon of zest.
- Zest half an orange and set aside. You should have about 1 Tbsp of zest.
For the ricotta
- Pour the half gallon of milk into a pot and warm to 200 degrees. Milk will get foamy and steam. Remove if it starts to boil!
- Remove from heat.
- Slowly pour in the 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and stir gently.
- Let sit for 10 minutes. The milk will be separated into chunks of curds and thin, watery, yellow looking whey. If there is still a lot of uncurdled milk, add more lemon juice.
- Pour curds through a strainer with cheese cloth.
- Drain the ricotta for about 15 minutes. This should yield about 2 cups.
- While the ricotta is draining, melt 4 Tbsp of butter in the microwave and let sit to cool.
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray an 8 inch cake pan with baking spray.
- Pour melted butter into a large mixing bowl.
- Add sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zest, vanilla extract and almond extract and whisk until well blended.
- Add 2 cups of ricotta and stir until light and fluffy (about 30 seconds).
- In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
- Sprinkle the flour mixture onto the ricotta mixture and stir until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and use a knife or spatula to smooth and even out the top.
- Place in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cool for about 15 minutes before removing from pan.
- Put the cake onto a plate and let cool completely.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds if you'd like and serve!
It’s not very often that I do any baking. Although I love baked goods, it’s never been my specialty. That probably has something to do with baking being more of a science (I was never good at science or math).
What I like about this cake is that you can’t be perfectly precise with it. Depending on the size of your citrus or the consistency of the ricotta, the cake can change. This is NOT a cake for perfectionists! You use lemon and orange rind, but you use the juice from the lemon to curdle the milk to make the ricotta. So you use up the whole lemon! No waste here!
Some people may find the inconsistent results frustrating, but to me, it feels like magic when it all works out well. The worst thing that can happen is it ends up dry, but just make sure you don’t drain the cheese too long and it won’t be a problem. Even if you do drain it too long, you can just mix back in some of the whey so you have nice, wet ricotta. Easy peasy!
You may notice that this fresh ricotta citrus cake does not involve a blender. Did I say I’m not a baker? I’m lazy and lack electrical outlets in my kitchen so I avoid the blender. You can use one if you want, but I’ve found that it’s worked out well without it. I have experimented with this cake many times and finally this version is what I’m most happy with and I really wouldn’t change a thing. There may be a bit of a learning curve with this cake since it is entirely from scratch.
Once you learn to make ricotta from scratch, you won’t want to go back. It is SO GOOD. I just want to eat it by the spoonful! Here is a great step-by-step guide to making fresh ricotta from The Kitchn. The Kitchn does it better than I could and I used it as a resource the first time I made it.
I don’t know if this cake could win Great British Bake Off or anything. I feel like most of the time they complain about a dense structure of cake, but a ricotta cake is different! The density of this cake is what makes it so great! At least that’s what I think! It’s like a cross between cake and cheesecake!
Give it a try! If you make it let me know how it went and if you share on social media make sure you tag #thephillykitchen so I can see your creations!