It has taken me awhile to realize that ricotta cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient. For most of my life, I only ever encountered it in lasagna. But years of cooking and research has shown me that it is good for so much more.
Now when I say this, I mean good, whole milk ricotta that is rich and creamy and moist, not the skim variety that can get a bit dry and leaden in that lasagna filling. You’ll find it at better grocery stores. I occasionally make my own ricotta, which is an incredibly easy project (search a recipe online) with great rewards. I tried some recently simply paired with fresh sliced strawberries and drizzled with honey and realized what a great combination it makes.
So I turned the idea into a very simple cake, lightly sweetened with honey so the berries really shine. This recipe is not complex or difficult, but it is one of those dishes that makes me feel like a really sophisticated cook. For a little added sweetness and color, slice some strawberries, sprinkle them with sugar and let them sit while the cake bakes and cools. They’ll produce a lovely syrup that is delicious drizzled over the sliced cake.
Strawberry ricotta cake
Butter for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon
Seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 to 6 strawberries, sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8-inch springform pan with butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar in the pan and shake and rotate it until the sugar evenly coats the sides and the bottom of the pan. Tap any excess sugar out of the pan.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites in a small bowl until they hold stiff peaks. Put the yolks into a large bowl with the ricotta, honey, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds. Beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in the flour until the batter is completely combined.
3. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter a third at a time, making sure each addition is combined before adding the next. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Artfully arrange the sliced strawberries over the top of the batter, then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of the cake.
4. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the cake is firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. Remove the sides of the pan and slice. If you’d like, you can serve with some sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar.
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