Friday, September 24, 2010

My MIL's torta di ricotta, or ricotta cake

It is fashion week in Milan. That is synonymous of total chaos. It means the traffic, which is already pretty bad here, is horrendous. It means scooters, bikes and pedestrians weaving dangerously in and out of the aforementioned traffic. It means stressed out people everywhere ready to snap. It means bored looking models invading the city. It means double and triple parked Ferraris and Maseratis and papparazzi scurrying around photographing "It people". It also means me desperately trying to get from work in the smack center of Milan to pre-school and back faster than the hours it seems to be taking each way. Because each time I ride my bike down the pedestrian roads of the center I get stuck for about a half hour in the hordes of people craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the catwalk behind the 6-foot tall bouncers in sleek suits and sunglasses they built about 100m from my office. It also means that I will never in a 100 years get a reservation in that restaurant I am planning to go to for my birthday.

All most of us people not working in the fashion industry want to do on a day like this is go home and de-stress. Perhaps with a nice cup of tea and slice of cake. I guarantee, once you have tasted this, not only will you suddenly feel at peace with the world, but it will go from black and white to technicolor. After having some for breakfast, the Milan I rode through on my bike on a beautiful, sunny morning was suddenly a charismatic, happening city filled with energy and beautiful people from all over the world to celebrate creativity wearing fabulous clothes and accessories. Runways, here I come!


This recipe (like many others) is from my mother in law and her go-to cake for any occasion. Anyone who tastes it loves and wants the recipe. I guarantee if you bake it, it will become your signature cake too. You will become famous for it in your circle of friends and family and before you know it people will call it "your" ricotta cake.

My mother-in-law is also the reason the measurements are in grams and sometimes inaccurate. As you already know if you have been following my blog for a while, the woman never writes down a recipe and rarely weighs her ingredients (I had to torture her to get approximate amounts).

But the woman looks like there is no tomorrow.


250gr ricotta cheese
4 tbsp white sugar (approx. 100gr)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips (about 30gr)
3 egg yolks
100gr butter + enough to grease the pan
6 tbsp sugar
9-14 tbsp flour (see below)
1 sachet baking powder (16gr)
powdered sugar to garnish

The first thing to do is prepare the filling, because you want to let it sit and rest for a while.


Put the ricotta in a bowl, add sugar and start mixing.

And then mix some more.

 And some more (I used child labor).

Then, in another bowl, separate the yolks from the whites and add the sugar. 

I had finished my white sugar supply and used brown sugar instead, which worked fine.

Beat until creamy and pale.
In the meantime, melt butter in a sauce pan.  Add in the flour, 9 tbsp at first. Mix Add the butter and baking powder. Check the density and add more flour if needed. I usually end up using about 12 tbsp, but if you add them all at once, the dough may turn out too dry and there will be no turning back (this happened recently, but that is a story for another post). The dough should be pretty pliable and buttery, easy to work with. Knead the dough and then roll it into a ball and divide it in half. Take the first half and roll it out or even just press it into the bottom of your previously greased pan with your hands, which is what my MIL does.

Then chop the chocolate or use chocolate chips and mix it into the filling.

Spoon the filling into the base of your cake. 

Spread it around evenly with a spatula.

This is when things get interesting. Take the remaining dough and start flattening little pieces with the palms of your hands and cover as much of the filling as you can. Don't worry about the uncovered parts, the dough will rise and cover it up and the what is now the top of the cake will be the base, so nobody will see it! I worry every time I make this and then it turns out perfect.

Put the cake into the oven, which you will have pre-heated to 220°C, and bake for approx. 30-40 minutes. If you see the top is getting dark (it tends to burn because of the butter) and the bottom isn't golden yet, cover it with some aluminum foil.
Take out and let it cool completely. 

When it is cool enough, turn it out onto a plate. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar (I realized last minute I was out of it. Just enough for the above picture! And as you can see in the picture below, it absorbs quickly).

And then, as always, comes the best part!

*The pie dish I used (a pretty standard size in Italy) is smaller 20cm, or approx 7.8 inches).


  1. That looks divine! We have a place here that makes a cake like that and it's so famous and people queue for it! :D

  2. Well, with this recipe and your baking (and decorating) skills you will never have to stand in line again! I promise. Lorraine's ricotta cake...hehe

  3. I am soooo going to make this tomorrow for a bbq on Sunday. Looks delish and I'll finally surprise everyone as I usually always bring carrot cake when in charge of dessert.

  4. Delicious. I love Ricotta in cakes and will take this recipe to try. Thanks to you and your mother in law.

  5. Y & Kitchen in the Rockies: I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do. It is a great go to recipe. Have a great week end.


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