Louisa's Cake


Test Kitchen-Approved

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 Office

Jennifer 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
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 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
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400° F. Butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch springform 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 confectioners' sugar over the top or serve with your favorite seasonal fruit.

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Reviews (386) Questions (21)

386 Reviews

Tess H. January 26, 2019
Just tried it with blueberries in a muffin pan. Delish!
 
Camille January 26, 2019
This cake is amazing by itself, and has remained so through all the hare-brained variations I’ve put it through. Up next, folding whipped cream into the batter for a higher rise and lighter texture! This turned out heavenly with some fresh pomegranate seeds on top. https://food52.com/blog/23706-whipped-cream-in-cakes-one-ingredient-hack-change-the-way-you-bake
 
Debra W. January 7, 2019
I make this a lot, using a spring-form pan, and cooking it at 375 for 45 mins. This allows it to be crustier on top and still very moist inside. I've also used applesauce if I don't have a green apple, and dried orange zest powder if I am out of lemons. All in all, a great cake!
 
MJ R. January 5, 2019
Been dying to make this for a while. Now: springform vs bundt pan. Concerned about a squishy middle, intrigued by increase chance of crusty edge. Has anyone tried it??
 
Rita P. January 6, 2019
I use a 9 inch springform. I haven’t tried a Bundt pan. The springform works very well.
 
MJ R. January 6, 2019
Thank you for the reply. Did you find the times/temps as written worked for you?
 
Rita P. January 6, 2019
I use a convection oven so reduce the temp by 25 degrees. The time is about the same.
 
Martin January 1, 2019
I had to stop myself from eating it all. I feel like it could do with a bit more zest and apples, though, and didn't use as much of the sugar. But it is easy and so good.
 
Rita P. December 28, 2018
I may have posted this here before but can't find it. The first time I made this I used a brand name ricotta from the supermarket. The second and all subsequent times, I used local homemade ricotta from our local Italian grocery. The difference was amazing. It tasted better and had a better texture.
 
Tess H. December 23, 2018
I am VERY new to baking. This cake is easy and delicious. I stored it in the fridge. Is it OK to sit in on the counter in a cake dome on a pedestal?
 
CHeeb December 23, 2018
Yes,it is fine under a dome. It won't dry out for a few days,if it lasts that long!
 
bobbie J. December 23, 2018
Just be sure you don't have too much humidity - it could make it "weep" a little (though would still taste fine, even then!)
 
Hilda December 8, 2018
Wonderful recipe! Thank you for the sharing it with us. I made a few tweaks given a few suggestions posted here. My best takeaways were, a little less sugar is best and longer baking. I used a whole Gala apple and 1/4 of a Fuji apple. Since they were both on the sweeter side, I reduced a tablespoon of sugar in batter. Also, I turned down my oven to 350F for additional 20 mins. The cake was golden, crunchy and delicious!
 
Julia C. November 19, 2018
What a lovely cake! I made it late this morning for a Thanksgiving luncheon at at 2:00. Many compliments. It was gone so quickly I never had a chance to try it! I’ll make another tonight for dessert.<br />After reading all the comments, I did some things differently—one by accident. I used two Granny Smith apples instead of one. No one complained or even noticed there were apples in it. LOL. I added 1 tsp. vanilla because I think it adds to the taste in baked goods. I also added 1 scant tsp. Cinnamon. The jury is out on that. I also squeezed a 1/8 fresh lemon into the apples more out of concern they would turn brown. I also drained the juice from the apples.<br />I preheated my oven for 45 minutes so it was really at400 degrees. I didn’t open the oven door for 35 min. The cake had minor jiggling and was a lovely brown color. I lost the crunchiness, I think, due to the extra apple. I have adventures in driving and cooking
 
Nonnie November 19, 2018
Love this - the texture is like a lighter, coarser pound cake crumb. The flavor similar to Italian Ricotta cheesecake. After reading the comments I choose to bake it in a angel food tube pan with removable bottom. The center opening allowed heat to reach the middle and bake the cake through perfectly. Also - more crust!!! always a bonus. I put parchment paper on the base before spraying with baker's release spray (instead of butter and flour) and it lifted out easily. Thanks for sharing.
 
Nonnie December 24, 2018
Update - I made this a second time, using two pyrex (glass) loaf pans with a small strip of parchment in the bottom. Baked perfectly, lots of golden crust, no issue with it not baking through completely. Also scattered some sliced toasted almonds on top before baking and that was a nice addition with the mild lemon/apple flavors.
 
Denise Y. November 5, 2018
This is the second time I’ve made this cake and while it was delicious both times (though I might use a bit less sugar next time), the middle of the cake continued to be underdone. This time I let it bake for 400 for 30 minutes and then let it sit inside the oven while it was cooling down for another 10 minutes. What am I doing wrong?
 
bobbie J. November 5, 2018
It sounds like the perimeter is getting too hot too fast, and the center isn't heating up enough for even cooking. I would get an in-oven thermometer and check your oven temp., and do it several times in different areas of the oven to see if you have hot spots. Then, if the oven temp is correct, I would consider either changing pans, or lowering the temperature slightly and watching it. It would take a bit longer to cook. It might be a tiny bit tougher, but I think that would be better than undercooked! I use a GoldTouch pan from WS: I have found it to bake very evenly in my oven. I considered it worth the extra price for even baking, but it was kind of expensive.
 
Jean-Claude November 1, 2018
I had problems baking this at 400 F (the center was not cooked). I had the best results using an aluminum cake pan wrapped with a (silicone) baking strip, and baking at 375 F for 35-40 minutes (just enough time that a toothpick came out clean). The top was a very dark golden brown and the center was cooked.
 
Jean-Claude November 1, 2018
Forgot to add that I used a heavy aluminum round 9-inch pan. No need to use a springform pan (Most springform pans are dark metal that tend to overcook the sides of the cake, and the latch makes it impossible to use cake strips.) I butter the entire pan, put parchment on the bottom, butter the parchment, and then flour the pan. After 10 minutes of cooling on a rack, the cake easily falls out of the pan.
 
Christie B. October 22, 2018
Made this last night subbing out orange zest for the lemon (to go with an orange thread running throughout the dinner) and added a couple of teaspoons of honey to the batter at the end of the mixing process. It was sooooo delicious - everyone gobbled it up with homemade vanilla ice cream on the side. Yum!
 
J.B. October 6, 2018
Well kids, leave it to Beaver here; the oven went on and in went this cake with our outside temperature running at about 80°F outside, which for us here in AZ is cool. Since I was going to use my Cuisinart food processor, (sorry for the plug) for shredding the apple, I figured I must just as well construct the whole batter in the machine, which I did. Worked superbly, and since I once worked for the company doing demonstrations of the machine, I was fimilar with how the recipes need to be adjusted slightly during the mixing process. Nevertheless, it turned out quite easy and the final product looks gorgeous, all puffy brown and moist. My concerns over the baking temperature were somewhat unfounded and my total baking time was about 33 minutes. Yum, serve it with ice cream, plain or some mixed berries?
 
J.B. October 5, 2018
Opps, that's oven not overn; sorry!
 
J.B. October 5, 2018
Interesting, had this recipe sitting in my MacG database for some time. Finally we are cool enough (I live in AZ) to turn on an overn. When I first read the baking temperature I noted that I thought it was high and since my oven tends to run hot, I checked in Food52 and only two people had any "issues" due to the 400°F temperature. Lots of good feedback, I'll up date my reactions after I've finally made the cake. Good luck to me!<br />JB
 
Luis C. September 20, 2018
I've just made this cake and I adored its beautiful simplicity. A kind of elegant roughness. <br />Many thanks to Louisa who kindly shared this recipe and thanks to the community and its valuable comments. Best wishes from Mexico City! Grazie mille Louisa!
 
ANN M. August 5, 2018
400 degrees for 30 minutes. Didn't test for doneness. Unfortunately, the center didn't cook. Perfectly dark top, so I'm not sure how much longer I could've gone anyway. Next time, I'm definitely toothpick testing the center. Love the cake. As my apples waited to get put in, there was a TON of watery juice from the apples that I drained before adding the apples. Anyone add the apples along with their juice? Thanks.
 
Ayelet B. September 9, 2018
I had same experience. Cake was not done in 30 min. Was kind of burnt. Took 50 min to bake. Had to turn upside down so no one see the dark brown.... <br />came out delicious.
 
Ayelet B. September 9, 2018
Made the cake again today. Here is what I did different than last time. I grated the apple in separate bowl and squeeze the juice out of it, lightly. Voila! Perfect cake!
 
susan S. July 10, 2018
I have made this cake several times in Florida but for the first time at my house in Santa Fe and it is sinking a bit in the center...had to take it out after 20 minutes but the tester came out clean. Any thoughts?
 
Lawyerjen September 9, 2018
Susan, in Santa Fe you will need to cut down the baking powder to 2 tsp. At high altitude, things rise more quickly, and then they collapse or sink, so if you cut down the leavening, it helps a lot. I would also add 1 Tbs. milk to the ricotta, and reduce the sugar to 1 cup. Also, things do bake much more quickly at altitude, so it makes sense to me that it only took 20 minutes to bake.
 
Luis C. September 17, 2018
This is such a helpful response. I'm an amateur cook and you don't know how much I've upped my game thanks to this kind of advice. Thanks all the way up from Mexico City, at a whopping 7382 ft above sea level!
 
Jacq July 5, 2018
Love this cake so much. Works perfectly every time and is super simple to make. I've let it sit on the counter for a few days and it still tastes great. Has anyone tried freezing it? If so, how did it go?
 
Lindsay S. July 9, 2018
I made the peach version last week and put leftovers in the freezer. When it thawed, it was still perfect. :) I put it in my bag before going on a trip, everyone loved it the first night there after dinner.