August 10, 2014

You may feel differently

Helloooooo, friends. Just popping in to talk to you about a little cake that is very short and very sweet and very full of cheese. It sounds weird and strange, I know. But when I tell you that the cheese is ricotta and the sweetness is powdered sugar and the shortness translates to perfectly portioned, creamy mouthfuls, you may feel differently.

I made this cake in a hurry when I was having a what-do-I-make-for-the-blog, I'll-never-have-readers-again, I'm-a-failure-of-a-cook panic—(no biggie)—which, in case you haven't already guessed, is not the best of circumstances for beginning a project. Nevertheless, the cake could not be pulled into this madness, and baking, however forcefully I pushed it onto myself, helped quell this torturous mess of self-doubt. (I wonder how many of you out there encounter this sort of thing with your creative work? Because I have been trying to shush that chorus for years, and it seems to dim at times, but never fully retreat...)

But enough ranting. This cake is the opposite of all of the above. It is so simple and unassuming, so grandmother- and farmhouse-inflected, that when you eat it, the chorus of panic will become a soft hum, barely a whisper, easy enough to push aside, as you reach for a second piece. The cake comes from someone named Louisa, who lives in Castellina in Italy, and who seems to, by all accounts, be able to throw culinary masterpieces together without a recipe. (I aspire to your greatness, Louisa.) I am particularly attuned to all things Italian since taking up with a Pugliese—especially all the cake-like Italian things—so I rushed toward this recipe.

The ingredients' list is remarkably short, and will come mostly from your pantry, with the exception of, perhaps, the fresh ricotta, possibly the apple, and, if you are unfortunate enough to live without a lemon tree (my heart goes out to you), maybe the lemon, too. The rest of the ingredients can be counted on one hand, and in roughly half an hour, you will be in nonna heaven: sifting powdered sugar all around, garnishing with currants, listening to your hungry stomach growl.

Because this comes together so quickly, you will have plenty of time left in the day for brooding, which comes as a relief, really, after all that happy cake time.

Louisa's Cake
Adapted from Food52

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup fresh ricotta, such as Belfiore
Zest of a lemon
1 apple
1 tablespoon baking powder
Powdered sugar

Butter a 9-inch-round cake pan. Line with parchment once across, and then butter the parchment. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

With a wooden spoon (or a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

Peel the apple, and then grate it using the widest holes of a box grater. Into the egg mixture, add the flour, salt, ricotta, lemon zest, grated apple, and baking powder. Stir until just combined—do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the cake is pleasantly golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then pull out using the parchment, and continue cooling on a wire rack.

Sift powdered sugar on top, and serve with seasonal berries, such as currants and strawberries.