There are many variations of ricotta cake and ricotta cheese cake in Italy. This version is a bit between a lemon pound cake and a lemon ricotta cheesecake. It has a dense, but crumbly consistency, with a light,bright lemon flavor. If you prefer a denser cake, more like a cheesecake, you can increase the amount of ricotta and reduce the flour.
The cooking times will also vary depending on your oven and the type of ricotta you use. If you use fresh ricotta, the cake will generally cook faster than with packaged ricotta.
When fresh ricotta is not available, homemade ricotta is easy to make and has, in my opinion, a much better flavor and texture than the packaged variety. Nancy Silverton has an easy to follow recipe that produces great results.
1 cup, preferably fresh or homemade whole milk & cream ricotta, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs at room temperature, separated
3/4 cup of soft, room temperature, unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste finely grated zest from 3 organic lemons juice from 1 lemon, about 3 tbsp sea salt 8-inch springform pan
If you are using fresh ricotta or homemade ricotta, place it in a fine strainer over a bowl and let it drain for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Butter the bottom of the springform pan and line it with a parchment paper circle.
Lightly butter the parchment paper and the sides of the pan. Add a little flour and coat the bottom and sides of the pan, shaking until the entire pan is well coated. Tap out any excess flour.
Place the soft butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a hand mixer. Beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the ricotta and mix.
Then add the egg yolks, one at a time and 2 tablespoons of flour. Beat well after each addition, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Next add the lemon juice and zest.
Add the baking powder to the rest of the flour and sift into the bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt and beat gently until the batter is just blended and smooth.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and gently fold them into the batter using a large spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and gently smooth the top with a spatula or back of a spoon.
Bake the cake for approximately 40 minutes. The top should feel slightly springy and a cake tester or knife should out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for about about 15 minutes before removing it from the pan.
You can serve it at room temperature with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and some fresh fruit.