Although ricotta cakes in various guises appear all over Italy, my favourite is this one, also from the beautiful island of Sardinia. You must be certain to use the freshest ricotta for this dessert, or alternatively use whipped cream cheese. What I like most about this cake is its light, lemony flavour and its rather odd texture. It should be crisp on the outside, and soft and slightly custard-like on the inside. It is perfect for afternoon tea, or to serve at the end of a meal with some sparkling wine.
If you are using cream cheese instead of ricotta, whip it first to lighten it. Whisk the ricotta or whipped cream cheese lightly with a balloon whisk for about 10–15 minutes, gradually adding the sugar, until the mixture is fluffy. (If you use an electric hand beater it will take less time.) Continue to whisk, blending in the egg yolks and milk, then the flour, the lemon rind and baking powder. Whisk the chilled egg whites into stiff peaks and carefully fold them into the ricotta mixture. Butter a
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