Sardinian Ricotta Cake

Torta di Ricotta

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.

Ingredients

  • 11 oz (300 g) very fresh ricotta or cream cheese
  • 11 oz (300 g) granulated or caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten with 4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 oz (75 g) finest possible plain white flour, sifted twice
  • grated rind of 1 large lemon
  • 3 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 egg whites, chilled
  • 1 walnut-sized piece butter for greasing
  • 4 tablespoons icing sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (160°C).

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 12 inch (30 cm) cake tin generously. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and level it out smoothly with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes-1 hour or until a long, thin, metal skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out perfectly dry and clean. Do not worry if the middle of the cake sinks a little: this is quite normal. Remove the cake from the oven, turn it out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Sift the icing sugar all over the cake and serve.

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