Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Cake for Zita
There are times when I’m struck by the urge for a piece of cake. Nothing fancy, or too rich or indulgent, just a simple cake that can turn a lonely cup of tea into the perfect morning or afternoon treat, a pick me up and a good excuse to invite a friend over to share it with. This is just that cake. Despite the rich-sounding ingredients in its title, this is a rather humble, plain cake, with a soft crumb, a slight denseness to it thanks to the ricotta and a lovely bittersweet flavour from the dark chocolate. It’s subtle and asks to be eaten in more than one slice.
On this occasion, I’m baking this quiet little cake for a lovely Hungarian friend of mine, Zita, whose food blog, Zizi’s Adventures, is full of beautiful photographs and recipes of vegetarian and vegan goodness. She’s expecting a baby boy this month, her first bundle of joy. Just like Zita and some other wonderful blogger friends did for me last November, a baby shower is in order, a virtual one, of course, as being in different countries, this is as close as we can get to real thing. We had actually had this surprise baby shower planned for quite some time but Zita’s little boy, Adam, decided he wanted to be the big surprise and was born yesterday (he is obviously way ahead of us!)!
While the occasion certainly calls for something much fancier and more celebratory (Elizabeth David’s divine chocolate cake or even a version of this Lucky Peach chocolate olive oil cake with apricot marmellata and ricotta buttercream, for example), I thought this was actually just the thing. It’s the kind of cake I wish I could bake a few of to give to Zita to slice up and put in her freezer for emergencies.
I discovered four months ago that having a newborn around means cooking is not as easy as it once was, (in fact, to be honest I’m beginning to think of it as a luxury!) and since having a baby, eating just a muesli bar for dinner or some cold leftovers out of the fridge with just one hand now doesn’t seem so strange. Stocking my freezer before the birth was one of the best things I did to prepare myself for motherhood (perhaps one of the only things you can do to be prepared!). Cake, conveniently sliced before freezing, was a wonderful thing to have on hand when cravings struck or visitors wanting to see the baby popped around (apparently having a baby increases your sweet tooth – sugar and carbohydrates give you energy!). It doesn’t need to be a fancy cake, just something for a bit of all-important energy and a pick me up.
While I’m sure Zita could even turn this into a wonderfully wholesome vegan version, I know she’ll appreciate the unrefined spelt flour and raw sugar (this is even good with no sugar, which I’ve tried before, adding an extra 50 grams of chocolate instead). The ricotta replaces the need for butter in this recipe, something that makes this quite a unique and tasty cake. Italians would consider this a good cake for breakfast, dunked into a warm caffe latte. You could make it fancier by adding a nice thick layer of icing, but for me the beauty of this cake is in its simplicity – it’s quick to make, requires few ingredients and is easy to adapt – something that any new mum can appreciate.
Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Cake
- 300 gr sheep’s milk ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 150 gr raw sugar
- 200 gr spelt flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder (or 8 gr of lievito per dolci if you’re in Italy)
- pinch of salt
- 250 gr 72% dark chocolate, melted in a bain marie
Beat the ricotta, eggs and sugar in a bowl until you have a smooth, fluffy mixture. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and fold through until just combined. Finally, incorporate the melted dark chocolate until you have a uniform mixture. It will be quite thick. Spoon into a baking tin (prepared with some butter and dusted with cocoa powder, or some baking paper, if you don’t have a non-stick tin) and smooth the batter down, pushing it into all the edges of the tin. Bake at 180ºC for about 1 hour or until risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If you like, dust with icing sugar before serving. Keep any remaining cake in the fridge, well covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to three days.
This is for you, Zita – Congratulations on the birth of your gorgeous little boy. I wish I could show up at your doorstep with this and a hamper full of goodies to keep you going for those first strange and wonderful weeks of new motherhood, but I’m there in spirit! Best wishes my lovely friend. x
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