During Easter week, my family and I prepare a variety of celebratory foods. In my opinion, the best is always saved for last – the traditional ricotta cake.
Encased in pasta frolla or a sweet shortcrust pastry dough, the ricotta filling is rich with rum, cinnamon, sugar and eggs. The flavors of this ricotta cake bring back all the memories of Easter in Italy. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!
Prepare the Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry Dough):
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
One 9-inch pie plate
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling cake
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream, previously published on this website
1 pint fresh strawberries
1. Combine dry ingredients in a 12-cup mixing bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, blend in the butter until mixture is uniform and resembles small peas.
3. Mix in the eggs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition.
4. As soon as mixture amalgamates and dough is formed, divide it in half; shape each piece into a ball.
5. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze 10 minutes.
6. After 10 minutes, transfer dough balls to refrigerator while you prepare the ricotta filling.
Prepare the Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons Rum
Dash ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a 2 to 3-quart mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together all ingredients.
3. Make sure the ingredients are well-blended; cover the bowl and refrigerate the ricotta filling.
4. In the meantime, roll out the pastry dough.
Roll out pastry dough:
1. With lightly floured hands, flatten one dough ball to a 6-inch circle.
2. Place dough between two floured 16-inch long waxed paper sheets.
3. Gently roll out dough to a 14 or 15-inch circle. To prevent sticking, peel off the waxed paper sheets and dust each side of the pastry sheet with flour two or three times while working.
4. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet. With one hand underneath bottom sheet and the other on top of exposed pastry, quickly flip pastry over and into a 9-inch buttered pie plate.
5. Peel off the second sheet. Gently fit the pastry into plate sides and, using a fork, randomly make holes in the pastry. Trim edges to a one-inch overhang and set aside.
6. Repeat rolling instructions with other dough ball; set aside.
7. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet from rolled out pastry; set aside.
Fill & Assemble the Ricotta Cake:
1. Pour the ricotta filling into the pastry-lined pie plate; set aside.
2. Using a pastry wheel, cut the second rolled-out pastry into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide strips.
3. Place the longest pastry dough strip across the center surface of ricotta filling.
4. Take the next longest strip and place it one inch apart and parallel to the first strip.
5. Continue placing the strips, one inch apart, until there are about 5 strips across filling surface.
6. In a diagonal fashion, place the remaining strips, in the same manner, over the first layer of strips.
7. Trim overhang pastry to one inch; roll the overhang underneath and tuck it between the plate and the pastry edges.
8. Using 1-inch wide aluminum foil strips, cover the pastry edges (this will avoid blackening).
9. Bake the ricotta cake for about 30 to 45 minutes.
10. After 30 minutes and to test doneness of cake, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake the cake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Test again.
11. When cake is done, transfer it to a cooling rack or counter. Let cool to room temperature.
12. Cover the cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
13. Serve cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (see above) and fresh strawberries.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real