Louisa's Cake

By • March 15, 2011 • 158 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&MThe Editors

Serves 6

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups 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 (158)

Tags: simple, Tuscan

Comments (158) Questions (14)

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1 day ago majority leader

perfect. this is like a cross between a lemon bar and a cheesecake without the bad qualities of either - no hyper dense or silky sickness of the cheesecake, no saccharine gloopy teeth-coating punch of a lemon bar.

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28 days ago Rainboworganics

This recipe spoke to me and so I ventured and baked the cake ... the consistency was good -( despite the fact that I only used 1 teaspoon of the baking powder ) used gala ( local apples ) and somewhat the apples flavor was hidden ... the lemon zest was somewhat hidden as well. As far as the sugar ( sweetened ) for my taste and husband's taste it was overly sweetened - so will give it a chance again - but will make the following changes : Less sugar - will use the tablespoon of baking powder- more apples and lemon zest - and a pinch of vanilla and dark rum ... :)! these last 2 ingredients are part of the French apple cake - that whips in minutes and its delicious ... Just my humble feedback

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29 days ago sarah patton

What a fantastic, easy cake. Gorgeous texture. Wonder if you could somehow turn it into a chocolate cake?

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about 1 month ago Anna

I used the part skim milk ricotta cheese and the cake came out delicious! Next time I'll try it with whole milk ricotta and see if it comes as the same, texturewise.

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about 1 month ago shelikes_it

This was amazing! I used fat free ricotta and it was very good, very moist. Served with a coulis made from pluots.

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about 1 month ago Melissafitz

Delicious but mine fell in the center after baking for 40 min (I would have baked longer but I banged the pan when taking it out, causing the fall). I think I must have overbeaten the egg mixture before adding the flour & ricotta. The middle of the cake is still wonderful -- seems undercooked but it's not. It's kind of a pudding texture.

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about 1 month ago Anna

Has anyone tried making it with part skim ricotta?

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about 1 month ago Alyssa Cash

I made this cake yesterday and it was so so good! I love how moist and sweet the apples make it, and the lemon zest is just the right amount to give the cake a bright taste. The only topping I used was a dusting of powdered sugar and that was perfect. Will definitely make again soon!

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about 1 month ago Ticketytwo

I made this cake but had to bake it for like 50 minutes and it came out perfect!!
Just like the picture. Lol. So delicious!

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about 1 month ago CHeeb

Shehias,yes,simply test your cake with a toothpick as you near the end of baking time to see when it comes out clean. This batter is moist anyway with the grated apples ,so using a regular 8 or 9 inch pan is simply a matter of depth of batter in whichever pan size you choose. Ps,it doesn't rise a whole lot so there should be no fear of overflowing whichever you make...ch

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about 1 month ago skehias

Can this be done in a regular cake pan?

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2 months ago Ayesha

Made this and it was really good. But it wasn't as fluffy as it looks in the photos. And the only thing I did differently was use brown sugar and my ricotta was fresh but the kind you buy from wholefoods that has a month long expiration date. Any advice as to what I may be doing wrong?

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3 months 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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3 months ago wozr

Has anyone tried adding a tsp of vanilla flavoring?

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3 months ago Kimberley Anglin

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

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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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28 days ago Shell

I have now made this cake three times. Once with cream cheese, once with sour cream, and once as written with ricotta. Always topped with powdered sugar! Unsurprisingly, the cream cheese gives the cake a cheesecakey flavor. The version with sour cream was the heaviest, very moist and almost like a pound cake. It went well with tea. The original version had the most delicate texture (though still very most and rich), and as everybody has stated, it's absolutely delicious. Every version has been a great success!

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4 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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5 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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6 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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7 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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7 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!