Louisa's Cake

By • March 15, 2011 • 145 Comments

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Author Notes: Louisa is a family friend, gardener and chef from Castellina in Chianti, Italy where we gather several times a year. She cooks everything from memory and threw this together one night last Spring. When we pressed her for the recipe she hastily rattled some ingredients off and we scrambled to write it all down on a napkin. Along with my husband and children we've tested this cake about 6 times and friends are constantly asking for the recipe. -SML OfficeJennifer Wagner

Food52 Review: Only a true Italian nonna could produce something this ethereal with such a simple list of ingredients. SML Office got the recipe for this cake from a family friend in Chianti (Louisa), and to us it's the epitome of a classic Italian dessert. It's airy and light, but not without integrity: ricotta, eggs and plenty of butter give it richness, grated apple lends heft, and lemon zest rescues it from being at all bland. The cake is gently sweetened, and thus equally suited to breakfast and dessert. We think it would be great with something tangy and fresh, like a fruit compote -- and rhubarb season is coming up! - A&MA&M

Serves 6

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated (should yield about 1 cup)
  • Confectioners' sugar for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400?. Butter and flour a 9 or 10-inch spring form pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. On the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Slowly add the flour, salt, ricotta, lemon zest, baking powder and apple.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the sides start to pull away from the pan.
  6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan and cool completely on the rack. Sift powder sugar over top or serve with your favorite seasonal fruit.
Jump to Comments (145)

Tags: simple, Tuscan

Comments (145) Questions (14)

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16 days ago Renee B

My husband has made this cake to serve to company or for dinners we're invited to. Every single time anyone tastes it, they want the recipe. It's simple appearance is deceptive. It's one of our favorite recipes. I wish that Louisa was a regular contributor, either via her friend Jennifer or on her own. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

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17 days ago wozr

Has anyone tried adding a tsp of vanilla flavoring?

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5 days ago Kimberley Anglin

I wondered the same. Anyone? Does it really need it?

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about 1 month ago Shell

Sooo good! I should have read the comments for altering the baking temperature and time because the center was underdone, but the cake was super tasty regardless! I had cream cheese so I used that instead of ricotta, but otherwise I followed the recipe exactly.

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about 1 month ago kasia S.

cream cheese is not ricotta, baking is chemistry and a science, follow the recipe and it will work out.

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30 days ago Shell

You're absolutely right that cream cheese is not ricotta, and I should re-make the cake with ricotta to experience Louisa's cake the way it was meant to be! Still, I must say that my experiment in making a cream cheese Louisa's cake was a delicious one ;)

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30 days ago kasia S.

You are very brave Shell, I wouldn't have the guts haha, but glad it worked out and hey, improv creates new recipes.

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2 months ago Jena

Made it for a party over the weekend and topped it with fresh blueberries. Got multiple requests for the recipe!

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3 months ago Jenny Klein

Very Yummy. Added a little lemon essence to the batter. Made a fresh strawberry sauce for the topping. Very light and summery dessert. Will make again

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4 months ago Joy

Very moist cake. It reminds me of my neighbor's mother's sour cream cake. I topped it with a fresh blackberry topping. My husband went back for a second slice. I added this recipe to my cake file. I definitely will be making this again through the summer with a variety of fruit toppings. Delicious, quick and easy!

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5 months ago Renee Meissner

I made this today and it is great. It is very light and fluffy. I baked at 350 for 40 minutes and it's perfectly done. I made my own ricotta and I have about a cup left over, and I think I'll put some on top of my next slice.

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5 months ago ChantalMSalomonLee

Love this cake. I follow the recipe to a T and it turns out wonderfully each time. When I ask my Italian boyfriend what sweet I should make he usually replies, "The Nonna Cake!" Thank you, SML Office!

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5 months ago Ivet

I think that this cake' beauty is it's simplicity - I would not add anything. All I do is light dusting with powdered sugar. But everyone's taste buds are different. The fun of baking is in experimentation, right? What is the worst that is going to happen? I am sure that in any case this will be really really good and there is always the chance that your experimentation will render something fantastic.

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5 months ago charity

Could this recipe be used to make petits fours, or do you think the addition of petits fours icing would overwhelm the flavor?

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6 months ago Marla

I absolutely love this recipe. I just finished make this wonderful cake and it is delicious. I only added 3/4 of a cup of sugar instead of the whole cup the recipe asked for. The cake is so moist it almost feels like a cheesecake only better:) Thanks for this recipe.

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6 months ago Janet

It was only a couple of months old, but I did buy an off brand... I'll buy the good stuff and try it!

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7 months ago gm

It sounds like your baking powder wasn't fresh http://www.thekitchn.com...

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7 months ago Janet

Renee B... It was tasty, but it was really flat. I am going to try it again.... I must have done something wrong. Is it really one Tablespoon of baking powder?? I did use that amount...

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7 months ago gm

I meant to respond directly... see above!

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6 months ago Renee B

We (my husband usually makes it) followed the recipe exactly as written. I think that gm's link to info about testing old baking soda and baking powder could provide the answer. Good luck.

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7 months ago Janet

I just made this....it came out flat as a pancake.....:(

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7 months ago Renee B

It isn't a tall fluffy cake. Did you check yours against the photo here? Have you tasted it? It's somewhat dense (not leaden) and... delicious. Hope you are pleasantly surprised.

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7 months ago gm

I meant to respond directly..m see above

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7 months ago cherry khine

any substitute for ricotta cheese? Ricotta not available in my country.

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7 months ago Renee B

There are recipes online to make ricotta cheese easily. Maybe even here on Food52. I just did a quick search and found this:
http://www.chow.com/recipes...

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7 months ago Renee B

Should have checked food52. Here's another ricotta cheese recipe. I hope that you will try it since this cake is absolutely amazing. We've made it multiple times to rave reviews.
http://food52.com/recipes...

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8 months ago lemons

I used a 10" springform pan, and I, too, found it wildly underdone at the given time, quivering in the middle like a custard. I ended up with around 40 minutes and while it pulled from the edges and a toothpick came out clean, it was still a tad underdone. Nevertheless, I, too, love it and will make it again. And I'll cut parchment or waxed paper to cover the bottom of the pan so it comes out more cleanly.

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8 months ago Debra Weiner

I just made this after reading all of the comments, and it was wonderful! I set the oven to 350 and left it in for another 10-15 minutes. When I took it out of the spring form pan, it felt warm and soggy on the bottom, and a bit sugary. However, when it cooled, it was moist and delicious. I did cut the sugar down to one-cup and I grated some fresh nutmeg into the flour mixture. All and all, a simple, lovely dessert.

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8 months ago Renee B

I sure wish that SML Office would post more recipes. This a favorite of ours—and friends and family too. It's modest appearance belies the wonderful texture and flavor. Thanks for sharing, please share more!

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9 months ago Andrea K

Pure Heaven.