Monday 5 April 2010

Sicilian Spring Cake

I have spent every Easter since 2003 cooking for a yoga retreat. So what did I do on the first Easter Sunday at leisure in eight years? Cooked, of course.

I’m crazy about lemons, especially at this time of year, and the combination of lemons, almonds, ricotta and Sicily all make me think of Spring. No, I’ve never been to Sicily, let alone in springtime, but this cake conjures up visions of wandering in lemon groves somewhere outside Syracuse, where nearby almond trees are in blossom and herds of happy sheep (for the ricotta) roam.

(This cake is adapted from the Irish Times who adapted it from Manuela Darling-Gansser’s Spring in Sicily. I upped the lemon quantity because I like things on the sharp side.)

So, the ingredients:

  • 5 lemons
  • 400g ricotta
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 70g self-raising flour (or 70g plain flour plus scant teaspoon of baking powder, if, like me, you discover you don’t have self-raising)
  • 6 eggs, separated

Heat the oven to 180º C and butter and dust with flour a 25cm cake tin.

Before you begin: this cake requires lots of beating/whisking with an electric whisk. So either prepare yourself for having to wash the beaters several times, or, if you have more than one set, dig ‘em out beforehand.

1. First zest the lemons and squeeze the juice. Resist the urge to make lemonade (I very nearly got side-tracked at this point. I LOVE home-made lemonade.)

2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Separate the eggs (I can’t say I’d recommend trying to take a photo at the same time – this really tested my manual dexterity.)

4. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and beat the mixture after each addition. Look how yellow it is! It gets even better.

5. Mix together the ground almonds, flour (and baking powder if necessary), a pinch of salt

and the lemon zest.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and fold them in.

7. Whisk the lemon juice with the ricotta and when combined fold this into batter.

8. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks (which won’t fall out when you tip the bowl upside down – at least not without a good push.)

9. Fold the egg whites into the batter very carefully You want to make sure the egg white is well combined so no one gets a mouthful of egg-white omelette later on. On the other hand, if you stir too much you’ll lose the air you’ve so carefully beaten into the whites. So fold just until the mixture looks uniform (no streaks of white or yellow) then stop.

10. Pour the mixture into the cake tin,

and bake for 50-60 minutes – it’s done when a skewer (or fork) stuck into the middle comes out with no goo or crumbs attached.

You can serve this as a tea-time treat (dusted with icing sugar and curls of lemon peel) or for dessert. We had ours after dinner as part of a Café Gourmand – more about this in tomorrow’s post!


  1. Wow, this is mental, I made Lemon (and lime) cake yesterday too! nothing as fancy as yours, but clearly lemon cake is soo easter!

  2. there must have been something in the air!

  3. did you steal all your sister's ground almonds so she couldn't make macaroons? because otherwise it doesn't count.