Louisa's Cake

May  2, 2021
100 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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

Watch This Recipe
Louisa's Cake
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

  • tracy riser
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  • Pam Shropshire
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  • spooncwru
  • Jane Kauer
    Jane Kauer
  • Maude Synnott
    Maude Synnott
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.

475 Reviews

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.
Heather March 7, 2021
Excellent - always perfect!
salvatore M. February 25, 2021
What could be used in place of apple? We have an allergy?
Laurelle February 25, 2021
I used shredded zucchini, squeezed dry. It was fabulous!
salvatore M. February 25, 2021
Thank you Laurelle!!!! Xo
MarZig February 26, 2021
there is a recipe out there for same cake/author using peach. I bet you could use any kind of stone fruit for that matter... Try Anjou pear too.
Jane K. February 11, 2021
Made this; prolly should have read more comments, but undercooked. Even so, it was one of the best cakes! Goes on the short list for easy, best, healthy, simple desserts. I would just say use a 10" springform; I bet if I had done that instead of workhorse 9", the timing would have been perfect!
Jane K. March 16, 2021
based on other comments, I would add that in making it again--later today--I will use color as more of a guide, going for 'brown' vs. 'golden'.
Jane K. March 17, 2021
made again; 10" pan was better, added about 20 minutes, even so. It was deliciously browned. It was a wonderful cake! Thank you 'Louisa'!
ClumsyMunky February 6, 2021
So delicious! I messed up and set the oven to 350 for the first 25 minutes, but I raised it to 400 and left it in another 15 and it was perfect.
Maude S. February 4, 2021
So good!! Just made this this morning and I have a feeling I will be making this recipe many, many times in the future.
stratton January 28, 2021
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ctgal January 27, 2021
This afternoon, I just made this in no time at all! Delicious! I used King Arthur Measure for Measure gluten free flour per Jen A's comments, squeezed all the liquid out of the grated apple, and drained the ricotta cheese. A lovely, delicate flavor and a nice crumb, despite it being gluten free. I might add a bit of vanilla extract or almond extract next time though. Thank you for mentioning it, Jen A.! Love, love!
ctgal January 27, 2021
By the way, I didn't peel the apple either, and you would never know.
laura January 20, 2021
This is the most wonderful cake. It wasn’t too sweet. This will definitely go into heavy rotation. Thank you!!
neenagoswamy January 11, 2021
Really delicious! we added 10 more minutes as per other reviewers' and it was PERFECT!! Will def make again!
aggiebaker January 8, 2021
This cake was quite delicious... reminding us of poundcake.
I did have one issue. I followed the recipe exactly, and used a 9 1/2 inch springform pan, but had to bake it for 45 minutes. Even with the extended baking time, the edges were baked well and the middle was raw. I am wondering about the apples I used. I used a honeycrisp and half of a sweetbee to get to 1 cup of grated apple. They were VERY juicy. Do you drain your apples? Should they be a bit drier, like grated carrot?
MarZig January 9, 2021
If I am not mistaken this is suppose to be a bit on the wet side. That said if you don't like it see what type of Ricotta Cheese you used...I find part skim comes out dryer and whole milk Ricotta on the wetterside.
TrulyScrumptious February 25, 2021
That said, is redundant.
[email protected] December 27, 2020
What a lovely cake, light, moist and very quick and easy to make. It's worth keeping ricotta in the fridge to provide opportunities for making this cake - warm with cream is a tasty dessert. I don't bother removing the skin from the apple - it was hardly noticeable after baking. The apple and lemon give it a light fresh taste.
Kate November 20, 2020
I've made this cake many times and have loved it! Always a crowd pleaser. I decreased to sugar to a scant 1 cup and haven't noticed a difference. One of my favorites!