Lemon ricotta pound cake
Food15 minutes to prepare, plus baking time

Lemon ricotta pound cake

The bright citrus flavor of this cake is especially nice on a gloomy day.

Lemon ricotta pound cake (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Lemon ricotta pound cake (Photo by Jessica Grann)

There isn’t a day of the year that I would not be happy with a lemony dessert, but the bright citrus flavor is especially nice on a gloomy day.

If you can cream butter and sugar, then you can easily make this cake. The addition of ricotta cheese makes a beautiful crumb that helps the cake stay fresh for several days.

The flavor of this is perfect: It’s not too sweet, and the texture holds together so well that you can cut pieces into slivers that don’t fall apart.

This recipe is excellent as it is, but I’m including instructions for a lemon juice drizzle that pumps up the volume on the flavor if you’re looking for a cake with a lemony punch.

If you’d like to make it plain, some whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar and some fresh fruit are all that you need.

This pound cake bakes really well, so I often make two and freeze one for later. You can use a hand mixer for this batter and make it in one bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer.

Prep time is about 15 minutes, plus baking time.


Makes 10-12 servings

For the sponge cake:

1½ cups of cake flour. See note if you don’t have cake flour.
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse baking salt
¾ cup unsalted butter (one and one-half sticks) at room temperature,
plus extra butter for greasing the baking pan
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups whole milk ricotta cheese
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest from one medium lemon
Juice from one medium lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

Optional drizzle:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
6-9 tablespoons powdered sugar

Set the oven temperature to 350 F and place the wire rack in the middle position.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. (If you have a recipe that calls for both lemon zest and juice, always zest the lemon first before juicing it.)

Grease a loaf pan with about 1 tablespoon of butter. I suggest a glass or metal loaf pan. Most loaf pans are 9-inches-by-5-inches. Mine is 12-inches-by-4-inches. You can be flexible with your choice; just watch the cake well toward the end of the baking process.

Cream the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes at medium speed or until the mixture is light and fluffy. A lot of butter can get caught in the bottom of your mixer bowl, so take a rubber spatula and run it around the bowl to be sure that everything is well combined. If there’s excess butter, scrape it from the bottom of the bowl and put the mixer back on for 30 seconds.

Add the ricotta cheese and mix for an additional minute.

Add the eggs one at a time. Once each one is blended into the batter, add the next.

When the eggs are mixed in well, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice and mix for 30 seconds, then add the flour mixture a spoonful at a time. Be sure that the flour is incorporated well, but don’t overmix the batter.

Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. I start checking this cake at about 40 minutes. The edges may turn to a beautiful medium brown color. If you feel that they are getting too dark then loosely cover the pan with foil until the cake is ready to come out of the oven. The center of the cake may look very soft because of the ricotta cheese. As long as the toothpick comes out clean, the cake will firm up once cool. If the middle is too soft then bake it for an additional 5-10 minutes. Your nose will tell you when it’s done.

Cool the cake entirely in the pan on top of a wire rack.

Once the pan is cool, turn the cake out and place it on your choice of serving platter.

If you’d like to add the icing drizzle, mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice until it’s at a nice consistency that can be poured but is not too runny. Add a little zest for color and a little extra burst of flavor. You can spoon it over the cake or you can add some to each plate at the time of serving.

Enjoy and bless your hands!

You can make cake flour at home if you have all-purpose flour and cornstarch on hand. For one cup of cake flour, measure out ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and whisk in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. It’s that easy.

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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