The Cake of Three (Dolce del Tre)

By Emiko
December 9, 2015
40 Comments


Author Notes: The recipe for this Tuscan cake is based on a ratio of weight (cups and ounces are given too, though you can see it's a lot easier to remember in grams!). It's an old-fashioned recipe that I found in a cookbook by Claudia Spargi on the cuisine of Tuscany's Maremma region.

It makes a cake that is springy, moist and delicately flavored—the kind of cake Italians would call a "breakfast cake" and the perfect blank canvas, too, for those who want to play around with adding more to it. Traditional Italian favorites might be lemon or orange zest, vanilla extract, a splash of rum or sambuca, or chopped nuts, chocolate, or dried fruit. A layer of sliced apples or pears over the top would be delicious, too. The options are pretty much endless.

It keeps very well, wrapped well in plastic wrap. Leave as is or dust with confectioners' sugar.
Emiko

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) fresh ricotta
  • 300 grams (1 1/3 cups) superfine sugar
  • 3 eggs (use 'large' size / 60 gram eggs)
  • 300 grams (2 1/3 cups, plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
  • 11/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon (or other options, see note)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Directions

  1. Beat the ricotta, sugar, and eggs together until creamy. Whisk together the flour and baking powder, then fold into the wet mixture along with any flavoring you may want to use (see headnote).
  2. Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined baking tin (I used a loaf tin but a round, 8.5-inch cake tin works as well) and bake for about 40 minutes at 350° F (180° C) OR until golden brown and springy on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Reviews (40) Questions (0)

40 Comments

beejay45 May 11, 2018
Pound Cake! ;) Maybe not a pound in the Italian version, but the ratios of ingredients being 1:1:1 is pure classic pound cake. I wonder if that's where pound cake came from originally, Italy, I mean. I love the stuff and really hate these "improved" versions that are nothing like a pound cake. Thanks so much for the info and the recipe!
 
Author Comment
Emiko May 14, 2018
Almost! Pound cake in Italy is known as "Quattro Quarti" (four quarters, as each element -- eggs, butter, flour, sugar -- are made of 250 grams :)) This is no doubt closely related to these evenly proportioned cakes.
 
ellemmdee July 7, 2017
The only sure way Ive found to test doneness is with a Thermopen. Expensive, but has many uses and pays for itself with good results. Splurge!
 
juliana May 25, 2017
Do you think you could substitute gluten free flour and get similar results?<br />
 
thi April 13, 2017
Thank you for the clarification. I'll try again...
 
thi April 12, 2017
When you say 60 gram eggs. Does this mean each eggs should be 60 grams or 60 grams of eggs total for the recipe? The cake is already in the oven. I understood the recipe to read 60 gram eggs total. I am asking because the batter was very dense. The cake has been in the oven for 40plus minutes and it's still pale in color. Also, my ricotta was very dry to begin with. Maybe that is why it's dense. But I still have the question about the eggs.
 
Author Comment
Emiko April 13, 2017
Hello! Sorry about the confusion, it's to clarify what size the eggs should be. Eggs that weigh (total) 55-60 grams or about 2 ounces per egg are classified as "Large" in the US but because "large" can differ depending what country you're in, I specified the weight. So you should use 3 "US Large" eggs (that weigh roughly 60 grams each). There's some more information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_egg_sizes
 
Tracey April 12, 2017
This has become one of my all-time favourite recipes. It's endlessly adaptable, amazingly forgiving, and perhaps best of all, comes close to qualifying as a healthy breakfast item. I make some version of it just about every time I have house guests. My favourite version subs out almost half of the flour for almond meal, uses turbinado for about half of the sugar, and is flavoured with orange zest, a little bit of almond extract and vanilla, and a generous slug of orange blossom water. I have to bake it for a bit longer than the recipe says, but the resulting cake tastes wonderful and stays fresh and moist for days. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.
 
Author Comment
Emiko April 13, 2017
That sounds like a wonderful variation, I'm eager to try it too!
 
thi October 26, 2016
For those who are saying the cake takes longer to bake, try again and bringing your ingredients to room temperature first. This way your batter is not as cold when the cake hits the oven.
 
Author Comment
Emiko October 27, 2016
Excellent tip!
 
ghainskom July 8, 2016
Nice "canvas" kind of cake indeed. Maybe too sweet for my taste so I'll probably cut down on the sugar next time. But the texture is spot on.
 
Gina P. March 25, 2016
Emiko. I have not yet made the recipe, but another point to consider is the type of Ricotta. I only use fresh ricotta, not the pre-packaged kind...and there is a difference in the consistency of each.
 
Author Comment
Emiko March 26, 2016
Yes, I had considered that already and have tested with both kinds and found that it didn't make much difference in the baking time -- though in terms of flavour, I always prefer fresh, you can see my rant on it on this article here! https://food52.com/blog/15463-why-what-you-re-making-at-home-isn-t-real-ricotta
 
AJ D. February 21, 2016
Very tasty cake. However, in a loaf pan it took a solid 70 min to bake... wish I saw the comments before baking.
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 11, 2016
An update: I have updated the recipe to specify the size of the eggs as some people had found it took a bit longer to bake. In Italy, our regular eggs are about 55-60 grams each, not more, which correspond with US large size eggs. If you're using extra large or jumbo eggs, it could contribute to the cake taking longer to bake and a denser consistency. Hope this helps!
 
Auntie L. January 9, 2016
I test my oven temperature on a regular basis also. And I used the pan size that was listed. I'm happy that yours came out fine in the time listed. but I am not the only one who found that the time listed was not long enough.
 
Magdalena M. January 9, 2016
I've baked it 50 minutes and still come out underbaked, this is a terrible recipe, thank you very much for wasting an hour.
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 9, 2016
I'm sorry you were disappointed. I am trying to understand how to help people with this recipe, as it's not only a standard recipe in Tuscany (one of those cakes that grandmothers are famous for) but it's also become a favourite in my house (and amongst family and friends who ask me for it) and I bake it all the time with good/the same results. It would be helpful to know if at the 50 minute mark, did it look evenly browned and was springy on top (pushing gently on the top it should spring back)? Or if you did the skewer test to check if it came out clean? I'm wondering if there are other indicators I can give to other cooks to know when it's ready since it seems that my 40 minutes isn't working out for everyone.
 
Karolina January 17, 2016
Trzeba być od razu niemiłym. Od razu lepiej Pani Magdaleno, prawda?
 
mela February 21, 2016
Emiko, I'm wondering if the issue is the temperature of the ingredients. Maybe it's possible to get away with half a cup of butter (or something) if it's still fridge-temperature, but that much ricotta (both in real and percentage terms) would make a huge difference to the baking time if it hasn't been brought up to room temperature. <br /> <br />I love this cake. Thanks for posting the recipe.
 
Author Comment
Emiko February 21, 2016
Thanks mela. That's perhaps possible, though I have now tested the recipe 8 times now, both in Italy and in Australia (as I'm traveling at the moment!) and with fridge temperature ricotta I still get 40 mins (though in Australia I left it an extra 5 minutes). I've been talking about this issue with a friend of mine who is an extremely experienced pastry chef and works in both the US and Italy and she suggested it was the size of US eggs that would contribute to the longer cooking time. Italian and Australian average eggs are only about 55-60 grams (according to wikipedia this is the size of 'large' US eggs) but the average US egg is much bigger. If this is the case and people are using larger eggs then they have a denser batter, which will take significantly longer to bake. I'm not sure if it is this but it would certainly explain a lot if so!
 
Arathi March 6, 2016
I used 60 gram eggs and brought the ricotta to room temperature, but the cake did take about 60 minutes to bake. But dense cakes usually take longer for me than recipes state, so it might be due to my oven. Either way, this was a great cake, and in baking this type of cake one should expect some variation in baking times based on oven type, climate, ingredient temperature etc. It's a lovely recipe and I made it the super-easy way using a digital scale while my 3-month-old was napping, it took almost no "active" time, which is what I cared about. Thank you!
 
Amani October 17, 2016
Hi Emiko, can you tell me what's the size of your loaf pan and what material/color it is made in, i'm wondering if this is what is causing the major difference in cooking time
 
Author Comment
Emiko October 17, 2016
Hi Amani, I've made this cake in 3 different ovens in 2 different hemispheres/countries and in every single cake pan I own (loaf, round tin, etc etc) and it comes out the same every time, usually 45-50 minutes baking for me. I've tested it at least 20 times and consulted pastry chefs who are familiar with different results in Europe/US with baking and still get these same results, so please adjust time as you need, I always think sight and feel is the best measurement -- it should be golden brown on top, a skewer inserted inside should come out clean and when touched in the middle, it should spring back.
 
Amani October 17, 2016
Hi Emiko, thanks for you reply. Of course sight and feel is the best measurement, and that's what i've use and the cake was delicious, as expected, and I was very happy with the recipe. Thank you! :) My family loved it, and I'm ready to make it again, and again:) <br />It was a simple friendly question, as I was wondering if the cake loaf I used was the same size as yours. I've experimented with different color/material cake pans, loaf pans, etc, and found that lighter color pans took longer to cook.
 
Author Comment
Emiko October 17, 2016
Thanks, of course it was a simple friendly question (I thought I also replied in a simple friendly manner, apologies if somehow it appeared otherwise! I am typing in a bit of a rush!). It's interesting what you say about the pans, which is why I tried them in a variety of pans and shapes too. The one in the photograph above was baked in an aluminium loaf pan.
 
Hiromi M. January 7, 2016
I just made this with 200g of sugar, some vanilla extract and rum. 300g of flour is about 2 cups (US). I used 9" loaf pan, so it took 50min to bake.<br />It just came out of the oven, so I have not tried it yet... Hope it is good!
 
Hiromi M. January 7, 2016
Wow! Love it! 200g of sugar is perfect for me. May not be sweet enough for others here in the US. I would add more lemon zest or a bit of lemon juice next time.
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 9, 2016
So glad! I too personally prefer it with about 200 grams of sugar (but for the sake of remembering the origins of the recipe's name I use 300 here!). It's wonderful with the juice and zest of 1 lemon added too.
 
Hiromi M. January 9, 2016
I would add lemon juice next time although it was pretty good as is. I took it to school I work at and everybody loved it also. I will have to make it again as I have tons of Meyer lemons on our tree right now!
 
Sara V. January 7, 2016
Is 2 and 1/3 cups the equivalent of 300gr? It seems to me a lot of flour and I got a very dry batter. is it possible?<br />
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 7, 2016
Hi Sara! According to the conversion tool I use, it's actually 2.4 cups (so slightly more than 2 1/3 which would be 2.33). The batter is quite stiff because ricotta is denser and has less fat than butter or oil. If you like you can add a splash of milk or rum in it to loosen it a little.
 
mela December 26, 2015
I cut the sugar to 150 grams ( 3/4 cup), and added orange zest and Grand Marnier; then baked it in a 9 inch cast iron skillet. Not sure how long, as I forgot to set the timer, but longer than 40 minutes. <br /><br />I may reduce the sugar even a bit more next time, and also try low fat ricotta. This is a lovely cake.
 
mela April 13, 2017
Update: This is actually too great a reduction in sugar; it toughened the finished cake. I used more sugar the next few times, much better. And I baked it in a regular springform pan after the first time, also much better.
 
kai December 25, 2015
ditto with the previous comments, I baked the cake for an hour
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 26, 2015
Great! Thanks for the feedback. Can I ask too what sized pan did you use? Thanks!
 
Fernleigh December 21, 2015
Aunt Lissa is right. It take a lot longer. I am at 50 minutes and it's still got a ways to go.
 
Auntie L. December 20, 2015
It took a lot longer than the time listed for it to be done.
 
Author Comment
Emiko January 7, 2016
Update! I've since tested this recipe three more times, always with an oven thermometer to make sure it's what it's supposed to be and my cake is ready in 40 minutes precisely. I've done this with the loaf pan (as in photos) and also a 22cm (8.5 inch) round springform cake pan and had same results. Ovens vary, of course, and timing will also change with pan sizes, so I would still recommend to go by visual and tactile indicators -- springy top, nicely browned, skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean etc. I've also started separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites to peaks to fold through the batter which makes it even fluffier! Baking time still the same this way.