A simple, Italian-homestyle lemon tea cake with creamy mascarpone icing.
My favorite cakes tend to be the plain, rustic ones — you could almost say homely — that are somehow simple and elegant at the same time, like this lemon ricotta cake.
The batter is enriched with ricotta cheese and olive oil instead of milk and butter, which results in a tender but crumbly texture, just moist enough without feeling too rich.
Lemon zest in cakes is a magical thing, and this batter is scented with three lemons worth of it.
If nothing else, just the step of grating lemons on a Microplane counts as some kind of therapy, IMO.
It’s a rustic Italian-style treat, the perfect thing to snack on any time of the day, especially nice with tea or as a morning coffee cake.
You could leave the cake as is without the icing.
Or take the extra step and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar.
Either way, be sure to leave the option open to dress up this everyday cake up with the lightly sweetened creamy mascarpone icing.
It’s a small detail that transforms a humble recipe to something you’d want to share with friends or serve after dinner.
The light, lemony flavor of the cake goes perfectly with side of fresh berries or sliced stone fruit.
Lemon Ricotta Cake with Mascarpone Icing
For the cake
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, softened
- 2 1/3 cups (290 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- Grated zest of 3 lemons
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup (125 ml) olive oil or canola oil
- 1 ¼ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 8 ounces (225 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
For the icing
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter, softened
- 4 ounces (125 g) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (30 g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) heavy cream
- Adjust oven rack to center and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Smear the butter over the bottom and up the sides of an 8 x 3 inch cake pan or springform pan – be thorough and make sure there are no bare spots. Sprinkle a little flour into the pan and rotate to coat sides and bottom; tap out excess.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest in a bowl.
- In a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs for 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour in the olive oil and sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until emulsified.
- Lower the speed and add the ricotta cheese. Stir in the flour mixture in two additions.
- Scrape batter into prepared cake pan and level the top. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until puffed, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle emerges clean.
- Cool cake in the pan 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack to cool completely.
- While the cake cools, blend the butter, mascarpone, powdered sugar, cream and salt in a small bowl until smooth.
- Spread the icing over cooled cake and sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the top.