When I think about recipes I'm proudest of, I also realize how fortunate I've been. A lot of what I consider to be my best recipes are regularly featured by Food52--they've been in contests, in cookbooks, or are popular in their own right. It's almost as if they don't belong to me as much as they do to the world, and I'm really proud of that.
So for this contest, I thought about things I've created that I still make and that my friends and family enjoy when I do. This particular recipe is one I'm really proud of because, in thinking about the ricotta contest, I knew I wanted to evoke cannolis, but I'm not really a fan of the shell, and I used a technique that was new to me. And I felt as if the cake turned out really well. I make it as a dinner party dessert (because I still think it's best on the day it's baked). And while making baked goods beautiful is not really my strong suit, this one usually looks pretty (even though it sometimes slumps a little--I just consider that part of its charm). Here's what i wrote when I first submitted the recipe:
My husband is not a fan of ricotta cheese. But he loves cannoli. So in his honor, I wanted to make a cake that had the components of a cannoli without the mess of deep-frying. Most cannoli cake recipes are simple yellow cakes with sweetened ricotta cheese as the filling, but I wanted a cake in which the ricotta cheese was part of the cake. I borrowed the pudding cake technique of folding beaten egg whites into the cake batter. The result is a light and airy cake with crispy edges, shot through with orange zest and chocolate chips. And he won’t let me take it to work tomorrow, so I call that a success. - drbabs —drbabs
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe really solves the dilemma of the leaden cannoli shell. The pleasing creaminess of a great ricotta filling is front and center, with just enough structure to hold the cake together. As drbabs mentions, it becomes dense and custard-like after some time in the fridge, which I enjoyed. Next time, I will reduce the amount of orange zest and almond extract, but this is strictly personal preference, and fans of chocolate & orange in combination should proceed exactly as directed. I look forward to making this for Easter dinner in a few weeks. An excellent, well-written recipe! - SorrySuri —SorrySuri
eggs (room temperature), separated
ricotta cheese, drained for a couple of hours till it's fairly dry
all purpose flour
mini chocolate chips (plus more for serving)
zest of two medium-sized oranges
almond extract (or vanilla extract if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350° F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Generously butter a 9” springform pan and wrap the bottom well with foil to prevent leaking. Put water on to boil for the water bath.
Stir together ricotta cheese, milk, and egg yolks until well blended. Fold in flour until blended. Pour in melted butter, sugar, orange zest and almond (or vanilla) extract and stir until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry. This will go quickly. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites into the batter until the mixture is well blended and there are little or no streaks of egg white visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place it in a large roasting pan inside the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan to about 2 inches high. Bake for one hour until the top is brown and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and release the springform. Serve at room temperature with chocolate chips sprinkled over it. (A little whipped cream would be lovely, too.)
The cake is best (in my opinion) on the day it is baked. After overnight refrigeration, it is more like a custard (and moist, like the filling of a cannoli). Not that there's anything wrong with that! (Turns out, my husband liked it even more the second day. Go figure!)