Project Rome + Lemon, Ricotta, and Olive Oil Cake

As per usual, I have a new recipe for you today! But before I get to that, I also have info about an organization here in Rome that you should all know about. First things first -- let's talk about Project Rome!

Project Rome is a self-funded initiative started by Mary Stuart-Miller and Steven Barnes, two British expats living here in the Eternal City. What started as a small project in 2013 to help Rome's homeless -- just Mary and Steve serving home-cooked food and providing basic essentials like shoes and warm clothes -- has since expanded. Along with a team of 20 volunteers, Project Rome now feeds upwards of 150 men and women every Tuesday, as part of their "Tiburtina Tuesday" dinner service (you can get more information about Tiburtina Tuesday and how you can participate by clicking here). In addition to preparing meals, Project Rome also offers free haircuts and shaves, helps their men and women find jobs and apartments, and has started other activities to help support their work. These include: a wish list (sleeping bags, tents, toiletries, among other things) for those who wish to donate an item online; a gift drive at Christmas; and a project to sponsor a hen, whose eggs are used in the meals prepared by the organization (my family has already sponsored 3 -- Beatrice, Belinda, and Betsy). In short, the main aim of Project Rome is to serve others "with kindness, generosity and genuine human compassion." Sounds good to me. 

Project Rome has mostly recently organized a February Food Drive, in order to collect the following items:

Olive Oil
Canned Tomatoes
Rice (Thai par-boiled preferred)
Pulses, farro, lentils, orzo
Vegetable stock cubes
Jars of passata (crushed tomatoes)
Plastic plates (the deeper, sturdier kind)
Plastic cups

If you live in Rome and want to participate, you can drop any of the items at the following addresses:

Scholar’s Pub (Via del Plebiscito 101b)
The Beehive Hostel (Via Marghera 8)
Offices D813 (my office) or C434 (the office of Sangita Dubey) for those who also work at FAO.

You can find out more about the Food Drive by clicking here

Project Rome has also organized a Bake Off this February, where volunteers can either donate cakes to be served on Tiburtina Tuesday or at their Sunday meal services, or sell their cakes and then donate the profits to Project Rome. A slice of homemade cake may seem like a small thing, but I think a little dessert can go a long way to brighten someone's day. If you're interested in participating, you can find all the details of the Bake Off by clicking here. I'll be baking some cakes to donate for the Bake Off, and will also be baking a few cakes per month to donate to Project Rome going forward -- if you want to join me, do feel contact me ( or Mary directly to coordinate! 

Today's Lemon, Ricotta, and Olive Oil Cake was one of the cakes I prepared and donated for the February Bake Off. The recipe comes from blogger and cookbook author Rachel Roddy, by way of my friend Flavia Scalzitti, who shared this recipe on her blog Flavia's Flavors. I have adapted the recipe just barely, adding some vanilla extract and a bit more lemon zest, and the results were outstanding -- a fluffy, airy, and intensely lemon-y cake that is perfect with a dusting of powdered sugar, one of those cakes good at breakfast, snack, or dessert. I hope that the group that Mary, Steve, and their team are feeding today agree. 

A few last things I wanted to share! Mary has recently been recognized by the Guardian for her wonderful work, named as one of the eight heroes of 2016 in this article here. If you want to get involved in Project Rome, click here to contact the organization directly. Note that Project Rome also has an Italian version of their website. 

Looking for recipes for other cakes to make and donate for Project Rome? Check out the ones I have in my Recipe Index here under "Desserts." I also made this Best Ever Apple Cake, and this Nutella Swirl Cake, as well as a Honey Loaf Cake and a Chocolate Bundt Cake (recipes not yet on the blog). Note that "sturdier" cakes without any frosting or other layers are easiest to transport, serve, and eat. 


2 cups flour (260 grams) 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar (200 grams)
Pinch of salt (a heaping 1/8 teaspoon, roughly) 
1 cup ricotta (205 grams)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (224 grams)
4 large eggs
Zest of 3 lemons (orange zest works well too!)

Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F (170 degrees Celsius). Butter a 9-inch diameter bundt pan, tube pan, or loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta and olive oil until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until they are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth. Add the vanilla. Pour the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until the ingredients are combined and the batter is thick and smooth. Fold in the lemon zest using a wooden spoon.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. 
Cool the cake completely in the pan before inverting it out onto a platter. Dust with powdered sugar. Serves 12-14.


  1. Rachel's cake recipe is a regular in my house. I love your addition of more lemon zest and vanilla extract--can't go wrong with those ingredients. Thank you for the mention as well; so sweet of you. Even sweeter is that you are contributing cakes to such a wonderful organization. Bravissima! Thanks for featuring Project Rome. I had never heard of them before and it's great to know there is a concrete way to help those who need it most.

    1. Ciao cara! Love love LOVED this cake! I've made it a few times now and thought it would be perfect for Project Rome as it is easy to transport, keeps well, and is easy to serve. Thanks to you for posting it!!