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

The other lovely bloggers have prepared the following recipes for Zita’s baby shower:
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Comments

26 Responses to “Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Cake for Zita”
  1. Yes children change our lives and enrich them, happily!
    This is a great recipe without butter and with sheep mild ricotta = lactose-free = yipee!
    ;D Karin

  2. A lovely cake and indeed how wonderful it would be to gather together to celebrate Adam and Zita with all this food – and drink – :)
    I can’t imagine how much having a baby changes you life, frankly it even scares me. I have a great respect to mothers who still follow their dream while being a busy mom.
    It can’t be easy so thumbs up to you and to Zita (and all the other mums) for doing a great job!
    x

    • Emiko says:

      It is scary, I have to admit, but in a wonderful, exciting sort of way, like when you’re about to go on an adventure that you’re not sure about or familiar with so you don’t know how things will turn out…! It would be so lovely to have this food and drink all together in person – one of these days! x

  3. Rosa says:

    A delightful cake!

    I’m sure having a baby changes many things in one’s life. More than one would ever think. Nonetheless, becoming a mother scares me…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. I crave cake many an afternoon, and often indulge by baking Nigella Lawson’s chocolate loaf- a simple recipe similar in concept to this one, but not as wholesome. :) I love it plain too. With a glass of milk. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  5. Asha@FSK says:

    OH! beautiful cake for Adam and Zita! I love the idea of using ricotta as the fat element! So light and such a wonderful flavor. Now that the farmers’ markets have started in full swing I am looking forward to making this in the coming weeks!

    Hope you are having absolute fun in Italy! I wish I was there now, looking onto the Tuscan countryside :)

  6. What an absolutely beautiful looking cake! And such exciting news about Zita’s baby boy – I’m sure she would just love to have some of this stashed in the freezer for emergencies :-)

  7. A beautiful cake, so dense and delicious. I’d like a cup of tea please… congratulations Zita xo

  8. sneige says:

    Tell me about carbohydrates cravings, I live on these :D Your cake is luscious and amazing and I am impressed how you sneaked all healthy ingredients in it. I’d gladly have a slice.
    Oh why I didn’t think of freezing cake some moths before!

    • Emiko says:

      Ha, I know what you mean! I spent ages making ragu and soup and other meals for the freezer that I thought one day when I felt like making cake and was left with a whole cake to eat all by myself, “why not?” So I froze it so it’d last longer and I wouldn’t be forced to eat a whole cake in just a few days (oh no!) – SO glad I did it! :)

  9. A lovely cake – I make a ricotta cake with many of my cooking classes – easy, delicious, great with fruit and whipped cream. My recipe doesn’t call for chocolate, but my next version will :) Freezing is a great way to save yummy treats like this – even in my house, with two big boys at home, we can’t eat a whole cake before it starts to show it’s age.

    Best wishes to all you new mother’s out there – and happy mother’s day. It does seem overwhelming at times, but kids are pretty resilient, and mine turned out just fine (now 17 and 21), even with all the mistakes I made :)

    http://www.chefbikeski.com/?p=1507

    • Emiko says:

      You’re right, it was Mother’s Day, thanks for the reminder! That’s another thing that I’ve realised happens when you have a baby – I’ve become extremely forgetful! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Nathali says:

    I found this recipe and your blog LOVELY. You combined photographs, stories, words and recipes in a exquisite way. I’m just starting a blog for those who are cooking for children, its a school project. I will definitely prepare some of your recipes.

    Thanks for this beautiful space

  11. Soulfoodess says:

    This cake looks beautiful!! I wanted to ask you if I could substitute the spelt flour with regular All-purpose flour

  12. Monica says:

    Hi fab recipe! I made it last night and there isn’t much left this morning… (I blogged about it today… hope you don’t mind!)

  13. Rainey says:

    Hi, question!
    I’ve been trying to find a recipe that will work for an idea I have… Simple dark chocolate cake with lemon ricotta filling sounds amazing to me, but I can’t find a recipe for the cake – I’m thinking something with little butter – light, and more bready/tea-cakey.
    I was looking at just taking the ricotta out of this recipe, but I’m sure that wouldn’t work, and all the cake recipes I am finding look much too dense! Do you have any ideas?

    • Emiko says:

      I think this actually might work for you – it’s the right consistency that you are looking for (bready/tea-cakey). It holds up well so cutting/filling it would be a great idea and I think it’s nice to have ricotta in both the cake and the filling. I would give this a go, but if you preferred a cake with butter in it, you could simply replace the ricotta with butter. Sounds like a wonderful combination.

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