Here's a cake recipe that is impossible to forget. One of Italy's best loved cakes is an extremely simple, moist, and fluffy pound cake, or as they like to incorrectly call it, “plum cake.” It's as simple as can be: no icing or strong flavorings; perhaps just a shower of confectioners' sugar over the top if anything; a cake that is often eaten for breakfast (yes!), dipped into warm caffè lattes, or eaten as a mid-afternoon snack.
The best thing about the pound cake is its name, which makes it all the more easy to remember the traditional recipe: a pound of each ingredient (flour, sugar, butter, and eggs). In Italian, the cake is also known as quattro quarti, or "four quarters," as each ingredient is equal in weight.
In Pellegrino Artusi's Italian bible of cooking, he explains how to measure the ingredients for quattro quarti: Take 5 eggs, and weigh them in their shells (if they are large, this might equal around 300 grams). That weight is the weight you will need for each of the other ingredients.
A similar Tuscan cake, known as the dolce del tre, or "the cake of 3," calls for 3 eggs, 300 grams of sugar, 300 grams of flour and 300 grams of fresh ricotta. It makes a cake that is springy, moist and delicately flavored—the perfect blank canvas, too, for those who want to play around with adding more to it.
This makes for easy cake baking without really needing a recipe. Then if you like, you can personalize your cake by adding something extra; traditional Italian favorites might be lemon or orange zest, vanilla extract, a splash of rum or sambuca, or chopped nuts, chocolate, or dried fruit. A layer of sliced apples or pears over the top would be delicious too. The options are pretty much endless.
Looking at the volume conversions in the recipe below should be enough to convert you to weighing your baking ingredients. And then there's the mere fact that you don't need as many utensils as when you use cups and you don't have to wonder if you measured your flour correctly. Plus, just think about the ease of weighing your ingredients directly into the bowl.
More: Why using a scale will change your (baking) life.
How to do it? Place the bowl right onto the digital scales. Press "tare" to set it to zero, then make sure the units are set to grams. Tip in the ricotta and measure to 300 grams. Press "tare" again to reset to zero. Tip in the sugar to 300 grams, then crack your eggs into the bowl and whip everything together till smooth. Turn the scales back on and "tare" to zero grams. Tip in the flour, right out of the bag even. Now add your baking powder and any flavors you want and fold them through. You're done!
Serves 6 to 8
grams (10 1/2 ounces) fresh ricotta
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
300 grams (2 1/3 cups, plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon (or other options, see note)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Photos by Emiko Davies