Almond Ricotta Cake topped with sliced Blood Oranges and Apricot Glaze, for Bookclub
My Brooklyn Bookclub is a longstanding one. We have been meeting since May of 2001. Tomorrow night we will meet to discuss “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton. Whoever is hosting the evenings discussion usually provides a meal for the group, and like most bookclubs, we sit around catching up with each other, while dining, before getting down to any actual discussion of the book at hand. I will be bringing an Almond Ricotta Cake with Blood Orange Slices decorating the top, and glazed with an apricot jam, to be served as dessert.
Lately, it seems like this recipe for almond ricotta cake with blood orange slices, has been passed all over the internet. Most recently, Deb Perelman of the food blog Smitten Kitchen, baked and posted this recipe, and recounted it’s history. The recipe seems to have originated at The River Cafe as “Torta di Ricotta e Polenta.” It was then adapted by Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine Bakery. Deb Perelman adapted Pruitt’s version. Quite a lineage. The photo of the blood oranges on top of the cake looked like jewels on a crown, and I just had to try the recipe too. Plus, as you know from one of my previous posts, “An Orange and Almond Cake for Company,” I am a big fan of Almond Cakes.
This morning I went to a yoga class at the local Y, taught by Elias of Happy Warrior Yoga. He always gives a good talk about the values of yoga at the beginning of class, segues into a bit of meditation followed by the chanting of “Om”, and then onto the asanas. I think his teaching is related to Ashtanga yoga, as he stresses opening up the heart in most of the poses. Elias often makes jokes. For example we had to roll up our “Mexican blankets” today in the form of a “Mexican taco” and place it in front of our feet. If you haven’t yet guessed, Elias is Mexican and proud of his heritage, but also likes to joke about it too. We placed our toes on the blanket, heels on the floor, and then pressed with our toes to “squeeze the guacamole out of the sides of our tacos,” in order to stretch out our calf muscles in preparation to straightening our legs and stretching out our hamstrings. Perhaps you had to be there.
But the rest of the day was dull, as it was a tax preparation day. After I returned home, and had some breakfast, my husband and I sat at the kitchen table, and went through all of my folders of financial papers, culling out the documentation needed in preparation for having our taxes done by an accountant. My husband, Dan, had already gone through his own papers earlier in the week. When we were done, I spent a lot of additional time shredding unneeded papers, and tossing out marked up file folders. So this evening, while my husband watched yet another Republican debate to witness the fireworks that follow Donald Trump, and especially because the field of primary candidates was narrowed to four, I took the time to bake this cake for tomorrow evening’s bookclub meeting.
If you have been reading “Cooking the Kitchen,” you may have guessed that there is usually a song playing in my head somewhere in the background of my mind. Does that happen to you too, dear reader? I suppose it is not too uncommon as Anna Sale of WNYC and “Death, Sex & Money” has done a whole segment asking her audience to name songs they have listened to during important moments of change. My own recent favorite is Operator written by Jim Croce, as well as the cover version sung by Diana Krall. The words in the refrain always get to me. There is a certain punch to the way the words are sung:
“But isn’t that the way they say it goes
Well let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine, and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words
Could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels”
Listeners of Anna Sale’s radio show, wrote in to her about songs that were important to them and why, describing their experiences around the songs. She then compiled a list of all the songs, calling them “Anthems of Change.” A second part of this was to have people send in videos of themselves, dancing to their songs, so she could compile bits into one long video of change.
So this evening, instead of watching the debate with my husband, as I cannot stomach the Republican candidates, I went to my kitchen to cook this Almond Ricotta Cake. A song from the Broadway musical, “Pippin,” was playing on the radio in my head. The specific song was “No Time at All,” a cheerful, upbeat tune, to go with the excitement and challenge of making this cake for the first time. I realized that the version of “No Time at All,” playing in my head is the one sung in the original cast album, by Irene Ryan, who was known for playing the grandma on the tv show, “The Beverly Hillbillies“. Today, there is a whole new generation that has recently seen the revival of Pippin in which Andrea Martin played the part of the grandmother in the show, and sang “No Time at All,” while doing aerial acrobatics, which went along with the circus theme of the revival. So they will have a whole new person singing this song inside their heads, when it comes to mind.
The lyrics to “No Time at All,” have too many verses to include here, but if you click on the link to the title in this sentence, you can hear a recording of Irene Ryan singing the song. Maybe, as with my yoga class, perhaps you had to be there. But I hope you do enjoy this song nonetheless. I especially enjoy the refrain, “Oh, it’s time to start living’, Time to take a little from this world we’re given….” In the play they project the words up on a screen and ask the audience to sing along with the bouncing ball, a device from movies originating in the early 1920’s. Somehow, I imagine that it may have been popular during the depression era. I also especially like the end of the song “No Time at All,” in which the grandma character sings to Pippin, who has lost his way in life. It is almost like an anthem to my younger self, as well as to our own millennial generation.
“Oh, it’s time to keep livin’
Time to keep takin’ from this world we’re given
You are my time, so I’ll throw off my shawl
And watching your flings be flung all over
Makes me feel young all over
In just no time at all….”
Dear Readers, if you choose to make this stunning and flavorful almond ricotta cake, do write a comment, and let me know what song was playing in the background of your own mind while you made it. Or even comment on the song you imagine would play in your head while imagining making this cake.
Please note that the cake is very moist and is almost like a light and fluffy cheesecake. I found the baking time to be a bit off, and baked the cake for an entire hour. The jam finishing, which gives the cake a gloss, is purely optional. When serving, you may want to add a dollop of creme fraiche, sweetened whipped cream, or even ricotta. Enjoy!
And do check out the rest of the album of Pippin. The opening number, “Magic to Do,” is a great number to dance to, alone, in the privacy of your abode, as is “Morning Glow.” And “Love Song,” sung on the original cast album by John Rubinstein and the late great actress, Jill Clayburgh, will melt your heart.
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water (I used 2 tablespoons)
- 3 large eggs, separated
- ⅔ cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 blood oranges, or another orange of your choice (you may need 3, if you have trouble cutting thin slices of the oranges)
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- ⅔ cup (165 grams) ricotta
- ⅓ cup (45 grams) cornmeal
- 1 cup (135 grams) firm-packed almond flour or meal
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup apple, quince or apricot jam (optional, for glossy finish)
- Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
- Stir brown sugar and water together so they form a thick slurry. Our into prepared cake pan and spread thin. Set aside.
- Whip egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until they hold thick peaks. Set aside.
- Place granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Finely zest both oranges over it.
- Cut both oranges in half. Cut one of the halves into paper-thin slices and arrange slices over brown sugar base in cake pan. Juice other three halves (about ⅓ cup juice) and set juice aside.
- Add butter to zest and granulated sugar in large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer (you can use the same beaters you used for the egg whites) until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to combine. Add juice and ricotta; mix until smooth. Sprinkle salt over batter, then add almond flour and cornmeal and mix until just combined. Gently fold in egg whites.
- Scoop batter in large dollops over prepared cake pan base. Gently spread batter flat, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath. Bake in heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes [may take longer, I baked the cake for 60 minutes], or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and then, as is Deb Perelman's preference, for 5 minutes more. The final cake is so moist, almost damp, she found the extra baking time beneficial.
- Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes, and then run a knife around the side and invert onto a cake plate. If any orange slices don't come out easily, just gently arrange them on the top of the cake. If desired, heat jam until loose and brush over cake top for a glossier finish. Let cool and cut into slices. This would be delicious served with an extra dollop of ricotta, creme fraiche, or barely sweetened whipped cream. This cake keeps at room temperature, but we prefer it from the fridge.