Originally, my family’s Christmas eve plans included lasagna. My mom commissioned me to make it, and per my request went grocery shopping, buying noodles, tomatoes, and tubs of ricotta cheese among other ingredients.
The problem was, no one really wanted lasagna, and I didn’t especially want to make it either. I made a sample batch, and with homemade tomato sauce, it took me nearly three hours. I couldn’t really imagine repeating that process, especially in the midst of our Christmas dinner chaos.
So, instead we had fish tacos, shrimp, beans, rice, turkey, and mashed potatoes…a strange (but delicious) combination. Seeing this left me with two and a half tubs of ricotta cheese, I decided to make ricotta cake for dessert. I’m not a fan of cheese in dessert (though I’m learning to appreciate cream cheese frosting — cheesecake is still a nope), but the ricotta simply made this cake deliciously tender and moist.
Everyone loved it, so much so that I’ve made two batches to use up all the ricotta. I brought it to a gathering with friends, and every last crumb was devoured. My friends and family all loved it, so hopefully you’ll try it and love it just as much.
Lemon & Almond Ricotta Cake with Berries
NOTE: The first time I made the recipe, I used a loaf pan. The second time (pictured) I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 13x18 in jelly roll pan.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cups oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- lemon zest from 1 lemon (save the juice for a glaze - recipe below)
- 1 carton (~1 1/2 cups) blackberries/raspberries
- ~1/2 cup sliced almonds (i used the extra crushed almonds from a batch a macarons i made)
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Whisk together the oil, ricotta, and sugar in large bowl for several minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the extracts and lemon zest.
- Add the dry ingredients, and stir until most of the flour is incorporated.
- Fold in the berries, continuing to stir until no streaks of flour remain.
- Pour in a 9 inch loaf pan, sprinkle with almonds, and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool on rack completely.
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar (depending on how much lemon juice))
- There are two ways to use the lemon: for a glaze or for an ‘infuser’.
- To make a lemon glaze topping, combine the juice from the lemon and enough powdered sugar to form a thin glaze. Pour or spread over cooled cake.
- To make a lemon ‘infuser,’ add enough powdered sugar to temper the sourness of the lemon juice. Poke the cake with a fork when still warm, then pour the sweetened lemon juice over it. The sauce will add additional moistness and flavor.
- I can vouch that both work well for this cake! It’s a great way to use up the part of the lemon the cake doesn’t use.
I’ve been to Costa Rica twice.
The first time was in 2009, when a past Spanish teacher invited some of his other former students to join a group of his current students on a trip there. Most of former students (the people I knew) couldn’t go, which left just my friend Sonia and me.
By that point, even though I had taken Spanish for three years, I would still fumble during simple conversations. My parents allowed me to go on the conditions that I would speak solely in Spanish, but considering I was there with 20 other teens and a close friend, none of whom could speak much better than I, that didn’t happen.
Instead I spent close to a week making new friends (in English) and having fun, not a total waste I think! (Though, if you ask my mom and dad, they grumble and say, “Yeah, yeah.”)
Me and Sonia in Costa Rica!
This summer, I lived with a Costa Rican family for three weeks. My days were divided between community service and Spanish lessons, with the occasional excursion on the weekends.
Since I visited with my friend and her sister, I wasn’t completely immersed and did speak some English, but with twenty hours of Spanish classes a week, I definitely improved my conversational skills and learned a lot.
When I’m at home, I tend to cook most of my meals myself, mostly because I’m impatient and can’t bear the lag between asking for food and actually receiving it.
In Costa Rica, my host mother generously set out plates of food for me three times a day, and for three weeks I happily ate black beans, flavored rice, cabbage salad, and vegetables, with the occasional caramel candy or slice of cake.
During one of the excursions, I bought a Costa Rican cookbook from a giftshop, already dreading a life without homemade rice and beans at every meal. It’s filled with recipes for savory and sweet dishes, and all the recipes I’ve tried so far have been successes.
I’ll post recipes for rice and beans soon, but they were both devoured before I could take pictures. Luckily, I snapped some shots of this banana cake in time.
This cake is denser than most banana cakes I’ve had, and the recipe called for cloves and nutmeg rather than cinnamon, but it was still delicious.
Costa Rican Banana Cake [Queque de banano]
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground gloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup butter, melted & cooled
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (The cake was pretty sweet so next time I would reduce the sugar to 1 cup or 3/4 cup!)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and spices.
- In another bowl mash the bananas.
- Add the butter, sugar, eggs milk, and vanilla.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Bake in a greased 9x13 pan for about 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
A quick note from Chomps of Life:
Guess what? My amazing brother has generously bought me the domain name chompsoflife.com! Yee! That means that if you want to get to this blog, you can now omit the .tumblr.com. Much easier, amirite?
Now back to the blog:
Today’s recipe is brought to you by the various times my dad’s gone to the Farmer’s Market, and arrived home with a giant paper bag filled to the rim with blueberries. Although I knew that my family was completely capable of eating all those berries raw, I knew that an even more delicious use of them would be baked, preferably in a pie. I, being an extremely lazy baker, looked for a recipe that could satisfy my appetite, and my couch-potato personality. This blueberry crumble is it! It only requires making one simple dough for the crust and crumble, and an even simpler blueberry mixture for the filling. If you’re a lazy baker, make this today, and if you’re not, make it anyways and realize how wonderful laziness can be.
Blueberry Crumble Bars
adapted from here
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 4 cups fresh blueberries
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the white sugar with the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
- Blend in the vanilla, butter, and egg to form a crumbly dough.
- Pat half of the dough into a greased 9x13 inch pan.
- In another bowl, combine the blueberries, other 1/2 cup of white sugar, and cornstarch.
- Sprinkle this mixture on top of the dough, then crumble the remaining dough on top of the blueberry mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the top is golden brown.
- Cool completely, cut into squares, and enjoy!