Louisa's Cake

May  2, 2021
129 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
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Louisa's Cake
  • 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° 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Nancy Caravan
    Nancy Caravan
  • Judi Lowell-Riley
    Judi Lowell-Riley
  • Regine
  • Amanda Trayes
    Amanda Trayes
Jennifer Wagner is a Creative Director and Graphic Designer with extensive experience in design and art direction for Brand Positioning, Identities, Advertising, and Editorial Design. Her love of storytelling, photography and illustration is intense and being on set or in the studio is where she feels most at home. She lives in Garrison, New York and working on a food + garden project TBA in Newburgh, New York.

491 Reviews

carol September 26, 2023
I have made this cake so many times I feel like I can make it from memory as the Italian Nonna, Louisa does! I make it for friends that come over to my house, for meals that I take to friends in need; everyone loves it! I lost my recipe recently, but thankfully I remembered where I originally found this wonderful of my favorite websites....Food 52!
woodenmask July 16, 2023
Sugar=218 grams
AP Flour=150 grams
Ricotta=247 grams
Rachel P. June 25, 2023
I continue to love this recipe after many years of making this cake. It always receives rave reviews and never disappoints! Served it this past Friday and Saturday with fresh strawberry sauce and whipped cream.
Smaug June 19, 2023
This was quite good- the flavor really does seem to be greater than the sum of the parts. Almost made it all the way without altering the recipe; at the last minute broke down and added some nutmeg (and I'd do it again). I skipped the confectioner's sugar. Also, I'd recommend sifting together the flour and baking powder before adding. It's pretty sweet, but not cloying. Easy and, even with the current wildly inflated prices on sugar, flour and ricotta, inexpensive. I made 1/2 the recipe in a 6 3/4" springform.
Nancy C. February 22, 2023
Good and easy. I've made it a few times for guests, served with berries and/or whipped cream, and the leftovers freeze nicely. But I find the flavor to be a bit too "egg-y." Maybe the fact that I cut down a little on sugar affects the overall flavor that would otherwise be covered up by sweetness.
acroft September 8, 2022
I make this all the time! Perfect simple cake and makes a good snack
P.w.p August 28, 2022
I’ve made this 2x before and cut the sugar as I usually find most desserts too sweet and I loved my family loved it. This time, however, did the same and I found this excessively sweet somehow. Didn’t have lemon so I used orange zest as it was what was available. And, my batter was too wet (toothpick came out clean) n the outside almost burnt. I even covered the top w foil for the last 15”. It almost took 39” but apparently wasn’t cooked enough still. It is a different oven so I’m wondering if this was 1 of the issues.
Patrizia October 18, 2022
stesso identico problema, l'ho fatta più volte con la speranza di riuscire cosi' come si vede dal video ma niente, troppo alto forse la temperatura del forno e poi bisognerebbe sapere se è statico o ventilato o anche dove posizionare la teglia...molto buona di sapore, ho messo metà zucchero rispetto alla ricetta e comunque sempre dolce è, impasto troppo fluido, forse necessita di più farina oppure è diversa la qualità della ricotta. La voglio rifare ancora ma personalizzarla, aggiustando le dosi degli ingredienti.
Judi L. May 18, 2022
Perfect cake
Jami March 3, 2022
This is a stunning cake. Moist, flavorful, comforting, and just the right amount of sweetness. Brava!
Dani January 1, 2022
This cake was delicious!Honestly, so simple and not too sweet. My kind of cake. You can taste the hint of apple and lemon. Nice, light and fresh. In the summer, I will top it with some summer fruit to make it perfect. Thank you for a lovely cake recipe.
Regine December 14, 2021
Excellent cake. A Delicious cake in terms of texture (light and moist), flavor (buttery/lemony in a subtle way), and simplicity (easy to make). I used a 9 inch springform pan, and based on some of the reviews, I chose to lower the oven temperature from 400F to 350F. It took exactly 40 minutes for the cake to be ready. A long skewer inserted in the middle of the cake came out clean. I see some reduced the sugar but I really don't see the need as the sweetness of this cake is perfect. I plan on making this cake again and again. I also added 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Others can choose to add other flavorings such as orange zest, almond extract, etc. This cake is perfect. I give it 5 stars. Oh...I forgot to say something important. I oftentime use the reverse creaming method when I make a cake so I used my food processor to mix the flour, sugar, and baking powder, and I then added the soft butter. Once the flour and butter mixture becomes sandy, you add the eggs, ricotta, vanilla, and lemon zest. Last, I added the grated apple and I mixed it into the batter with a spatula rather than letting the food processor run.
ann H. November 13, 2021
This recipe has become our go-to breakfast cake recipe.
I add more lemon zest and squeeze a little lemon juice on my grated apple but otherwise follow the recipe precisely.
Thanks for sharing this fantastic recipe.
Estelle C. July 1, 2021
We love, love, love this cake!

How far ahead can this delicious cake be prepared and still be yummy? Can this cake be frozen for a few days?

Many thanks-
Amanda T. June 3, 2021
Phenomenal. A total keeper. Thank you!
Terry April 28, 2021
It will be great!! I often sub almond for the lemon. Delicious!
tracy R. April 27, 2021
So I have made this cake and it wonderful; however, I was going to make the Double Vanilla Cake here at Food52 for my birthday tomorrow as it is my FAVORITE vanilla cake.....however, I would need to go to the store and ugh, not really in the mood. Any thoughts of how this cake might work if I replace the lemon zest with vanilla extract/paste for a more vanilla forward cake? Would it work with the apple and ricotta? Any input would be appreciated.
ChefMommie April 3, 2021
Delicious, fresh and not difficult! The lemon zest was the star here. You woulda thunk I put the whole lemon in there, it smells lemony and tastes lemony, but not in an overpowering way, just a fresh way. I was surprised the apple was undetectable. No apple flavor at all, I always have sweet apples in the fridge, either Fuji or Pink Ladies. Following in the footsteps of other reviewers, I did not peel the apple, but grated the skin along with the flesh without any issues in the final product. This was my first go at baking with a springform pan. I've had my 9 inch pan for years, still had the tags on it and all. I decided the glowing reviews for this recipe called for that pans maiden voyage. Like other reviewers, mine took longer than 30 minutes to bake. When it was a golden color, you could see it was still uncooked in the center. When the cake was a beautiful brown color, I did use a knife to go into the middle to make sure it was done. I was serving guests and didn't want to present a raw cake, and the powdered sugar on top hid my detective work ;) We did our best to let it cool completely before serving, but we're rule breakers. It was so delicious warm. A+ recipe!
Pam S. March 30, 2021
This recipe has glowing reviews already, but I'll add my own. In short, this is the best "plain" cake I've ever made. I've had to force myself not to eat the entire cake!

As others have commented, I extended the baking time to 38 minutes - the middle was still jiggly at 25 minutes; and I will decrease the sugar next time.
SandraMostacci March 17, 2021
Only have cottage cheese in the fridge (a nice brand). Has anyone made this with cottage cheese?
Rees T. March 31, 2021
Not this cake, but I use yogurt or kefir in other cakes I make, you can't go too far wrong, if the texture is "liquidy" you can put a little less in!!! Check the middle!!!!
spooncwru March 15, 2021
This recipe is a 10/10. In my electric oven, I had to extend the baking time to 35 min (until a knife came out clean), but it came out perfect. You want the outside to be brown, not golden.