Usually when I share a recipe, I’ve made it at least three times. I read once that when cooking/baking you should make the recipe exactly as written the first time, alter it a little bit but overall follow the original the second time, and, finally, make it yours the third time, throwing the recipe out the window and making it from memory. This isn’t quite my process (I rarely ever follow a recipe to a T the first time), but it is close. I like to really give something a try before I claim it as my own, and the honest truth is: I rarely stop editing a recipe. It just keeps changing each time I make it (even if only slightly). And, occasionally, I find a recipe that just needs no alteration–it is perfect as is.
This cake is an exception to every rule. First, it is amazing. I couldn’t wait to share it, because it is that good, so I’m sharing it after only making it once–ah! Second, I had to alter it because I didn’t have all the ingredients. The original recipe called for vanilla bean, not extract, but when I couldn’t find vanilla beans at Trader Joe’s and there was a snow storm coming (and thus every grocery store in town had lost its wits), I decided extract would work. Also, the recipe originally called for more lemon zest and no lemon juice. I zested all my lemons and still didn’t have enough, so I decided to use what I had and add some juice to make sure the cake was lemon-y enough. Thankfully, my edits went well (especially since I was making it for a dear friend’s baby shower with no back up–again, ah!) and there was nothing but crumbs to show for it at the end of the day.
Because I made this cake in the dead of winter (read: crazy snow storm for the mid-Atlantic, but nothing like what my favorite Bostonians are dealing with), I served it as is with no toppings. However, if you were making it in the summer, I think topping it with fresh berries would take it to the next level. Some freshly picked strawberries or raspberries would likely make this cake about perfect (until I decide to edit it again).
Lemon, Almond and Ricotta Flourless Cake
Adapted from Cakelets and Doilies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c white sugar, divided
1 t vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
4 eggs, separated
2 1/2 c almond meal
10.5 oz whole milk ricotta
Sliced Almonds, for decorating
Powdered Sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease a 9″ springform pan and set aside.
Cream butter and 3/4 c sugar together in a mixer. Add vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Add egg yolks one at a time. Then, add almond meal 1/2 cup at a time. Once the batter is well combined, fold in the ricotta cheese.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 c of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (My dad taught me you can flip the bowl upside down and the eggs will not come out–try at your own risk.)
Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the rest of your batter. Then, fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula and decorate with sliced almonds. Bake for 45-50 minutes until firm to touch. Allow to cool completely in cake tin, then be sure to loosen sides with a knife or spatula before removing the sides of your pan. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Makes 1 delicious cake that serves 12-24, depending on how you like your slices.