Ricotta Pound cake with Strawberries

 
I'm back in Rome after two weeks in the U.S and am as per usual jet-lagged, still in the phase where hunger strikes at odd hours and my wake-up time is noon (my alarm clock is apparently no match for a 6 hour time difference). I am apparently so jet-lagged that I forgot to save the post I had originally written for this recipe -- that would have required clicking the "save" button, which I did not do before shutting off my computer -- so I'll be keeping this post short and sweet and have included all that my sleepy brain remembers having written for it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'm a big fan of every day cakes like this one, or rather versatile, simple cakes that can be whipped up in the middle of the week and eaten for breakfast, snack, or dessert, that do not need different layers or fillings or frostings, just a dusting of powdered sugar to dress it up at most (this can be evidenced here and here and here and oh also here). Now, as simple as this cake looks -- just a plain loaf cake, really -- it is not to be underestimated. It is rich and buttery and dense and vanilla-y, and the star ingredient here, the ricotta, adds something special, making it extra fluffy and moist. When topped with a mound of tart juicy strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar, it is pure pound cake perfection, truly one of the best things I have ever baked. Are you running to your kitchens yet?

A few notes on this: Use the best quality ricotta you can find. Depending on the variety of ricotta you use, you might have to adjust the baking time as well and could go over the suggested 40 minute time below, if your ricotta has more moisture. I used a fairly dry variety from the cheese shop in my neighborhood and ended up baking the cake about 45 minutes. If the cake browns too quickly on the outside, just cover it with some aluminum foil until it is done baking in the middle. Berries are a nice accompaniment to this cake, but it is also great served plain as is. A teaspoon or two of lemon or orange zest in the batter would also be a nice addition. This cake is better the day after it is made, so feel free to make it in advance. Any leftover cake (though there is rarely leftover cake when I make this) may be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. The cake also freezes beautifully, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed in a large, sealable plastic bag.

I'll be back next week with some brunch recipes and also hopefully more energy! In the meantime, enjoy!  

RICOTTA POUND CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES  

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups strawberries, sliced 
Sugar for mixing with the strawberries, if desired
Powdered sugar for serving, if desired 

Directions:  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients to combine them, scrape down sides of the bowl, and beat batter for 30 seconds on medium speed. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Give the pan a few gentle whacks on the counter to remove any air pockets (I forgot to do this, and as you can see, my cake has a few little holes in it). Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking until the cake springs back lightly when touched, the sides have begun to pull away from the pan, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes more. While the cake is baking, mix together the sliced strawberries with a teaspoon or two of sugar. Set aside until the strawberries begin to release their juices. 

Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert it onto the rack to cool completely. Dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar, if desired. Slice and serve with the strawberries and any strawberry juices. Serves 10.

Barely adapted from the Dolce Italiano cookbook, by the late and ever so talented Gina DePalma.


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