Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake

It’s hard to find delicious apricots in Massachusetts–usually I’m limited to whatever the grocery store has shipped in from California, and while  plenty large these are often mealy  and flavorless.  Apricots are notoriously poor travelers, and much like strawberries, flavor gets sacrificed for sturdiness–and the ability to travel cross-country.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (3 of 4)

So I go a little crazy during those few short weeks when the Red Jacket Orchard apricots from upstate New York come in at the grocery store, and even crazier when the farmer’s markets have apricots on display.  (It’s a good year for fruit!).  So it was that I bought about seven pounds of apricots and carried them home on the commuter rail–the majority dedicated to an apricot-cardamom jam.  True to their delicate nature, a few still remained for eating fresh out of hand, but the rest were bruised from their commute–feeling, perhaps, much as we all do after a long day?  No way could these be wasted, so little surprise what comes next:  I found myself baking!

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (2 of 4)

As you know, I love baking with ricotta–it adds a wonderful springiness as well as sturdiness to baked goods.  More prosaically, we were about to go on vacation and the expiry date on the tub was nigh.  There’s plenty of cheesecake-apricot recipes on the web, but I had the urge to make one of those snacking cakes that can acceptably be eaten at breakfast.  I found this recipe on the blog Seasonal Desserts, and made a few tweaks of my own, adding a bit of whole grain flour and a splash of rose water.

Apricot rose ricotta cake, assembled.

As you can see from my shoddily-lit instagram photo above, the cake looks rather flat and unsubstantial in batter form–be not dismayed, as you have ample proof it bakes up beautifully.  You can also see that no matter how unphotogenically you’ve arranged your apricot halves, the result is nonetheless stunning.  Don’t you love it when that happens?

I’ve provided Maria Teresa’s suggested amount of apricots (six to eight) but if you are using local fruits you might have a variety of sizes.  Just fit as many halves as you can over the surface, bake, and enjoy.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (1 of 4)

 

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 250 grams ricotta []
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 6-8 apricots, washed, divided in half and stone removed
Instructions
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch round cake or springform pan and place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place the eggs, zests and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Set the mixer to its lowest speed and beat in the ricotta.
  6. Add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until they are incorporated.
  7. Pour about the batter into the prepared pan. Place as many apricots as you can fit on top of the batter and sprinkle them with the extra sugar.
  8. Bake the cake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the sides of the springform pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

Apricot Rose Ricotta Cake (4 of 4)

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Fannie Farmer’s Gingerbread Cake, somewhat better for you

Every so often, I just have to have some gingerbread.  I’ve always loved gingerbread–who doesn’t?  And after two years living in central Europe, where this spice-laden cake was everywhere, the added dose of nostalgia only intensifies my cravings.  I even prevailed upon my friend Jennifer to bring me some back from her annual trip to visit family in Vienna.  She happily indulged me, and threw in some marzipan and plum butter, the other habits I picked up while over there.

Now, I have nothing against fancy cakes with frilly frosting, but when I’m baking, I go for something that doesn’t need that little bit extra.  I must be honest and admit part of it could be a touch of laziness as I often run out of steam when it comes time to whip up a buttercream frosting.  As I see it, this failing of mine is a virtue, as a cake is already sugar and fat a-plenty, and frosting only makes things worse.  So I’m not making a tremendous effort to reform my ways.

A gingerbread cake, with the warm, complex flavors of molasses and spice, certainly can stand on its own, though it can handle a drizzle of icing if you must. Because it’s homey and unfussy, it takes beautifully to a bit of whole-grain flours as well, which is all the better–as you know I’m often tweaking recipes to add a bit of whole wheat pastry flour here, or buckwheat flour there…

So here I am, tinkering a Fannie Farmer recipe.  I came across this in the current issue of Edible Boston (where else would Ms. Farmer, of the Boston Cooking School, get a shout-out?).  If you don’t know the Edible Communities series of magazines, you can check here to see if there’s one for your city or region–they round up the best of local food producers and purveyors, together with thoughtful articles, beautiful photography, and of course, recipes.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (1 of 2)

This cake pulls together easily, but is fun to make as it has an unusual method–melting the butter and molasses together.  You add baking soda directly to the hot mix, causing this fragrant concoction to foam and bubble up furiously.  Speaking of which–make sure to have that baking soda all measured and ready to go:  you don’t want a sticky mess of molasses and butter spilling out of the pot while you’re looking for that 1/4 teaspoon measure.  Stir it down, let it cool a bit, and add in the remaining ingredients.

I have no idea what the purpose is behind this unusual set of steps, but it’s fun and I don’t have to get out the stand mixer, so I’ll go with it.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (1 of 6)Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (2 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (3 of 6)Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (4 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (5 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (6 of 6)

The cake is not overly sweet, but it is rich, which means that a dollop of tart (but admittedly also rich) creme fraiche on the side complements it quite well.

Gingerbread Cake, adapted from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Soft Molasses Gingerbread

Notes:  I used spelt flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour, but I’m certain you could easily use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour as well.  And make sure to line your cake pan with parchment–like any good gingerbread cake, this is moist and sticky.  

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/3 c unsalted butter (80g), plus additional butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4t baking soda
  • 1c buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1c all purpose flour (125g)
  • 1c spelt flour (125g)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch mace
  • pinch allspice
  • 1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Butter a 9″ round cake pan and line with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit.  (This cake is very dense and moist).

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and the molasses together, and heat until boiling.  Turn of the heat (and remove to a surface it won’t be too hard to clean up) and add the baking soda all at once.  Stir it down–it will froth and foam and bubble up for longer than you’d expect.

Allow to cool for a few minutes.  (You might prepare the pan now if you haven’t done so).  Add half of the flour, then the milk and egg, and then the remaining flour.  Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (2 of 2)