I just returned from Montalcino where the glorious spring produce is starting to appear at the village market on Friday. Outside the weather was unseasonably chilly yet inside my little kitchen, spring had sprung thanks to my market haul 🥳 – crunchy fresh fava beans, sweet little ‘carciofina’ (baby artichokes), tender spring asparagus, and sweet, sweet strawberries from southern Italy.
Now back in the States (sigh), company was coming for dinner, and I needed to find a dessert that was simple and unfussy. I still had visions of those plump sweet strawberries from the market and remembered that I had Alison Roman’s new cookbook ‘Sweet Enough’ sitting on my book pile, ordered just before I headed over to Montalcino. (Sidenote – I adore anything this girl cooks – her typically straightforward recipes coupled with her ‘never-take-this-too-seriously’ mindset reminds me of my other cooking goddess, Ina Garten. Their unfussy, simple, and ‘let’s not overcomplicate this’ approach makes my heart happy.)
After perusing Alison’s new book, I settled on a Raspberry Ricotta Cake, planning on subbing out the raspberries with strawberries. I then remembered that Ina had a similar Fig Ricotta Cake that I had made a few times, substituting whatever fruit was seasonal. Looking at the two recipes, I noticed one difference – Alison melted her butter while Ina creamed the butter with sugar….which led me down a bit of a butter-rabbit hole. (If you do not have a butter-caring bone in your body, skip the next paragraph. Else, read on.)
Why melt versus cream butter? And how will that impact the result? After some googling, first I found that the crowd over at Serious Eats says that creaming butter with sugar adds air which means fluffiness. And fluffy is good. Then I found a compelling case for melting butter over on Bon Appetit. Using melted butter does not trap air so the cake will be more dense. Awesome – I got to learn something in the process. Wanting a fluffier cake for this go-around, I opted for Ina’s recipe.
The resulting cake was light and fluffy, not overly sweet yet sweet enough to be the perfect ending to the meal. I added a bowl of very simple whipped mascarpone cream which added an ever so slightly tangy taste. Highly recommend you include this pile of creamy goodness!
A few notes on the recipe
This cake is the perfect backdrop for whatever fruit is in season. Substitute in your favorite. I have made this cake before with blueberries and raspberries.
Both the cake and the mascarpone cream can be made up to 2 days in advance. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The mascarpone cream is stable enough to hold in the refrigerator for a few days.
If you overwhip the mascarpone and it turns a bit grainy, just add in a little more cream to return it to a smooth consistency. If you cannot find mascarpone, substitue with crème fraîche or whipped cream.
A few more of our strawberry recipes
For that spring strawberry fix…
Wishing everyone a beautiful spring!
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Raspberry-Ricotta Cake
This simple not-too-sweet cake is the perfect backdrop for those plump spring strawberries. Don’t skip the whipped mascarpone which adds a slightly tangy note to the sweet fruit.
For the cake:
- 1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
- 1 ¼ sticks (140 grams/10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons whole-fat plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest from ½ lemon
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 large strawberries, stems removed, sliced
- 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar if turbinado unavailable)
For the mascarpone cream:
- ½ cup (4 ounces) mascarpone
- ½ cup cold heavy cream or whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- If your ricotta is watery, place a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer over a bowl. (No cheesecloth? Use paper towels or coffee filters.) Place the ricotta in the strainer and allow to drain until needed. Discard the liquid.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Butter the inside of a 9-inch springform pan and line it with a round of parchment paper at the bottom.
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl using either a hand mixer or a stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add in the ricotta, yogurt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix until combined.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth out the top.
- Arrange the strawberries on top of the batter, slightly pressing the strawberries into the batter.
- Sprinkle the top with the coarse sugar.
- Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, about 55-65 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick, inserted in the center of the cake, comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, make the mascarpone cream. In a medium bowl using a whisk or electric mixer, combine the mascarpone, cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whip until smooth and creamy. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for about 15-20 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan. Place on your serving platter and serve with the whipped mascarpone!
- This cake is the perfect backdrop for whatever fruit is in season. Substitute in your favorite. I have made this cake before with blueberries and raspberries.
- Both the cake and the mascarpone cream can be made up to 2 days in advance. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The mascarpone cream is stable enough to hold in the refrigerator for a few days.
- If you overwhip the mascarpone and it turns a bit grainy, just add in a little more cream to return it to a smooth consistency. If you cannot find mascarpone, substitue with crème fraîche or whipped cream.