Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums

September  4, 2013

If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: A going away present, from plums, to you. And it all happens in one bowl. 

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums from Food52

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If this is the last thing you do with plums all year, you won't be sorry.

This is the story of a buttoned-up little plum cake that was meant to be a freer, unfettered dessert of syrupy poached plums. When I worked in a kitchen a few years back, I was the one in charge of poaching pears in vats of spiced red wine, and I wanted to riff on that, to pay homage to the slightly thick, warm, citrus-scented poaching liquid I'd stir with a spoon as long as my right arm. 

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums

And then one night I threw together this lovely book's one-bowl ricotta olive oil cake with a few editors you may know. I threw caution to the wind, added plums, threw more caution to the wind, amped up the lemon zest, drank another glass of wine, slyly increased the salt. What came out of the oven was delicious. My poached plum plans had officially derailed, as plans do, and I wasn't mad about it. 

Because what use are we, really, if we don't share our cake discoveries? 

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums from Food52

Use perfectly ripe plums when you make this, as they have a way of being honest, true to themselves, in this cake -- if they're too firm, you won't get them to say they're not later. (Did you get an unlucky pint anyway? Defer to Merrill.) And at the risk of making enemies with Alice Medrich, I will tell you that I've made this cake without first sifting the flour, and not a soul complained. Sift if you wish, you won't hear from me if you don't. It will, however, make things more dramatic if you happen to be photographing the whole process. Try to tell me you didn't want a dramatic sifting shot. 

So let's save the pears for deeper into fall, shall we? They'll be what to cook then. 

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Plums 

Makes one 9-inch cake 

Butter for pan
1 cup fresh, full-fat ricotta
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 to 10 small plums, halved, pitted, and set aside
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • petitbleu
  • Jennifer
  • sarabclever
  • LauriL
  • Yasmin Khakoo
    Yasmin Khakoo
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


petitbleu September 29, 2014
Love this! Not too sweet and with a very tender crumb. For lack of ricotta, I used yogurt, and I scraped the seeds of a vanilla bean into the batter--miam! Definitely going into my "keepers" folder.
Jennifer February 20, 2014
This was a phenomenal recipe! I received so many plums this year...made a huge batch of plum jam, and a little plum liquor to boot. I made 4 of these cakes as well...fantastic! Just pulled the last one out of the freezer a couple of weeks ago. Just as delicious and everyone loved it!
sarabclever September 24, 2013
I loved this cake. I may just make it a second time.
LauriL September 14, 2013
I scored some plums!!! Can't wait to try this!!
Yasmin K. September 8, 2013
This cake is so delicious!
Kristy M. September 8, 2013
I have an Italian prune plum tree that is over 20 years old. It does not produce a bumper crop every year but about every 5.
This was a great year. Gave daughter 2 gallons to make plum wine. I froze some, made jam, and made few tars. I make a pie dough, pit and quarter plums, add sugar to taste, cinnamon, and some clear gel and a dash of salt. Mound them into the raw pie shell which I make extra large so I can lap the dough around the middle like a flower tart. I brush with water sprinkle with raw turbinado sugar. Bake 475 15 min then 350 20 min and done.
Mariana September 8, 2013
Would it work with blackberries - we have so many!
nonniedb September 8, 2013
I would love to read a comment from someone who has made it. How does it compare to the recipe from Marian Burros, which I, too, use?
LindaHP September 8, 2013
I have end-of-season perfectly ripe peaches. Can I use those?
Kenzi W. September 8, 2013
Sounds like it would be delicious -- let us know how it goes if you try it!
maryw.s. September 4, 2013
I make the one from NYT by Marian Burros when she used to write the food column, made it the other day. When I see the Italian prune plums, I can't not make the cake. So good.
Kenzi W. September 5, 2013
That one is fabulous!
gluttonforlife September 8, 2013
I am totally with you on that - it's like a Pavlovian response!
LauriL September 4, 2013
Hand, sifter, dramatic flour, photographer,....oh yeah, the cake too...Love em' all!
Jenny September 4, 2013
Can't wait to make this (and I don't have to -- I have all of the ingredients!). I usually have ricotta around, because I cannot get enough of Smitten Kitchen's ricotta scones (less whole wheat flour, any fruit, brushed with cream and kissed with sugar on top). One question: I have some overripe greengage plums from my Seattle farmer's market. Is this a good recipe for mushy plums?
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
So happy to hear it! This cake won't be as good a receptacle for over-ripe plums as, say, a crumble or jam, but it will certainly not say no to them. The fruit will get a little jammy in the oven, anyway!
Lindsay-Jean H. September 4, 2013
I need more plums and dramatic flour sifting in my life. This counts as breakfast, right?
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
Oh god yes.
Hannah N. September 4, 2013
I want that first photo in a frame for my blank canvas of an apartment, please. Also -- another slice of cake!
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
Both can be arranged.
Marian B. September 4, 2013
I've been searching for a solid olive oil cake recipe, and ricotta is one of my favorite food groups -- this recipe is everything I've been looking for. More wine, more plums, more cake!
fiveandspice September 4, 2013
Hooray! I'm so glad you shared this recipe. I've been dreaming about this cake ever since I saw the photo of the one you shared at the office!
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
Glad to make good on that promise! I hope you'll share a photo of yours if you decide to make it.
Brette W. September 4, 2013
Looving this cake and everything about this post. Also, beautiful photos!
Kenzi W. September 4, 2013
I'm thinking a market trip is in our future.