Homemade Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake (Light and Moist)

This Homemade Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake is a simple cake made with whole milk ricotta cheese and fresh lemons.

homemade lemon ricotta cake being cut

Of all the cakes in all the world. Lemon is by far my favorite to eat. For me, it is absolutely sublime. The sweetness from the sugar is paired with that intense citrusy element. All packed into a moist cake. There has yet to be a lemon cake on a dessert menu that I have passed on yet. Citrus to me equates to a fresh bold flavor.

As it happens, Italians are masters in creating bold foods from fresh flavors. In fact, freshness seems to be a common theme the more I explore Italian cooking or baking of any kind. It often comes down to quality and freshness hands down over anything complicated or otherwise fussy. Their food is straightforward, delicious and most often made with only the very best ingredients they can find.

For them it seems that it’s either homegrown or locally sourced from a favorite vendor. But the food is also paired with a love that is unparalleled. Life is celebrated around the table in such a way that outsiders can only be romanced by it. Recipes are often passed down generationally as treasures kept within the confines of a family.

This is the magic and intrigue of the Italian lifestyle that is so inspiring to so many of us.

Naturally, I had to try my hand at a classic lemon ricotta cake. Especially since I have entered the world of cheese making with this homemade ricotta. What better use for it than a lemon cake?

The tangy lemon flavor and the moistness given off from the ricotta in this are an outstanding pair. It’s a blend that creates the most delicious cake with all the elements I think one should have in any good cake. Moist, somewhat dense, and filled with flavor.

Cake with coffee is always a great treat but this one is exceptionally so. I like serving it as a light dessert or for a coffee date with a friend. Topped with just a bit of powdered sugar but is also rather lovely with a bit of mascarpone cheese slathered on a slice.

Homemade Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake Is…

  • A delicious Italian lemon ricotta cake made with fresh lemons.
  • A light cake with the best texture and moist crumb for a perfect treat.
  • A cake that is made with simple ingredients and is a great recipe to make for dinner parties.
  • ​The perfect cake to make for anyone who loves lemon desserts.
  • The best way to use up any leftover ricotta cheese you might have.

Ingredients

Flour- For this cake use all-purpose flour. It creates the perfect soft crumb for an unfrosted cake. You can also use cake flour if you like. 

Sugar- I use pure cane unrefined sugar but you can use standard white sugar. 

Lemons- Used for both the lemon juice and the lemon zest, we want an intense lemon flavor for the cake. 

Eggs- I use large organic eggs from our hens. Of course, store-bought eggs are fine. Use large eggs and the best quality you can get.

Olive Oil- A wonderful oil to bake with. I use extra-virgin olive oil but pure olive oil will work fine. You can also substitute for avocado oil if you want a more neutral oil. 

Baking Powder- Used to make the cake rise. It is a good idea to check the expiration date on your baking powder.

Ricotta Cheese- I like to use my homemade ricotta cheese for this but any whole-milk store-bought ricotta cheese works fine. 

Vanilla Extract- I use my homemade vanilla extra, yes, I know I make a lot of things myself. But any good quality store-bought vanilla extract will work great. 

Salt- I like to use sea salt but standard table salt works fine.

Powdered Sugar- A nice sprinkle of powdered sugar creates a boost of sweetness to the tart cake and creates a lovely presentation. 

Tools

9″ Cake Pan or a Springform Pan

Sifter

Electric Mixer (optional)

Directions

 For the dry ingredients, start by sifting the flour and baking powder through a sifter into a large bowl.  Add a pinch of salt and stir lightly to combine. Set flour mixture aside. For the wet ingredients grab a medium bowl, and cream the olive oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add the fresh lemon zest of both lemons along with their juice to the bowl.

woman sifting flour

Once incorporated, begin adding one egg at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer until combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture with the wet mixture. 

Note: A good idea is to add half of the flour mix at first and then add the rest gradually.

Fold in the ricotta cheese. Do this by placing the ricotta on top of the batter and using a spoon begin working it into the batter. The batter will appear somewhat lumpy due to the ricotta cheese. Pour batter into your cake pan.

homemade lemon ricotta cake ready for the oven

You can opt to use a loaf-style cake pan or a circular cake pan. I like using my spring form pan for easy removal later. I place a piece of parchment paper down at the bottom. Grease your pan well and add the cake batter. Bake for 40 minutes or until the middle does not wobble. You want the cake at the just done point. Not overly baked. Garnish the cooled cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Homemade lemon ricotta cake on a cake plate
homemade lemon ricotta cake on a cake plate

Baking Notes

  • Be sure to bake the cake until it is just done. The cake is best when barely golden and has just set. Check it at the 35 to 40-minute point. Remove from the oven when the center is no longer wobbly.
  • Use room temperature eggs. This helps create a uniformly textured batter and the eggs are more easily mixed in.
  • I use a hand grater for the lemons but if you don’t have one. You can use a sharp pairing knife to peel the lemon from the rind. Be careful not to get any of the bitter pith on the peels you will be using in the cake. Chop them finely to add the zest to the cake.
  • I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour for this recipe but you can also use cake flour as well.

Serving Suggestions

This cake is perfectly delicious on its own however here are a few other ways to serve your Homemade Lemon Ricotta Cake:

  • Try it with a dollop of mascarpone cheese spread across your slice.
  • This cake is delicious during the summer months with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • For a gathering, it is nice to place a bowl of homemade whipped cream in the center of the table for guests to dollop as they wish. To make a homemade whipped cream simply add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to a mixer bowl along with 1 tbsp. of sugar. Place the whipping paddle on and whip until peaks form in the cream. Place in a pretty bowl with a spoon.

How To Store

​Store any leftover Italian lemon ricotta cake in an airtight container. You can also wrap it in some aluminum foil or plastic wrap over the top of the cake plate. Keep it away from heat sources or vents. In warm weather the moist cake might begin to mold quickly. The cake is good for up to 3 days stored at room temperature. 

FAQ

What other flours can I use for this cake?

For best results use either all-purpose or cake flour to make this cake. You will notice only a slight difference in the cake texture.

Will lemon extract work instead of the fresh lemons?

Yes. You can substitute the fresh lemon juice for lemon extract. The ratio is 2-1. So for every 2 tsp. of lemon juice you only need 1 tsp of the extract (half the amount).

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homemade lemon ricotta cake on a cake platter

Other Recipes To Try…

If you try this cake and love it, I would appreciate you coming back to give it 5 stars! Or tag me on instagram @rox_aquaintlife!

Yield: 1 cake

Homemade Lemon Ricotta Cake

homemade lemon ricotta cake on a cake plate

a sweet simple Italian cake made with whole milk ricotta cheese and fresh lemons

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups whole ricotta cheese
  • 2 medium lemons (for zest and juice)
  • powdered sugar to top

Instructions

    1. For the dry ingredients, start by sifting the flour and baking powder through a sifter into a bowl.
    2. Add a pinch of salt and stir lightly to combine. Set flour mixture aside.
    3. For the wet ingredients grab a medium bowl, and cream the olive oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
    4. Add the zest of both lemons along with their juice to the bowl. Once incorporated, begin adding one egg at a time, mixing until combined.
    5. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the wet. A good idea is to add half of the flour mix at first and then add the rest gradually.
    6. Finally, it is time to fold in the ricotta cheese. Do this by placing the ricotta on top of the batter and using a wooden spoon to begin working it into the batter. The batter will appear somewhat lumpy due to the ricotta cheese.
    7. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
    8. You can use a loaf-style cake pan or a circular pan. I like using my spring form pan for easy removal later. I place a piece of parchment paper down at the bottom.
    9. Grease your pan well and add the cake batter.
    10. Bake for 40 minutes or until the middle does not wobble. You want the cake at the just done point. Not overly baked.
    11. Garnish the cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Notes

  • Be sure to bake the cake until it is just done. The cake is best when barely golden and has just set. Check it at the 35 to 40-minute point. Remove from the oven when the center is no longer wobbly.
  • Use room temperature eggs. This helps create a uniformly textured batter and the eggs are more easily mixed in.
  • I use a hand grater for the lemons but if you don't have one. You can use a sharp pairing knife to peel the lemon from the rind. Be careful not to get any of the bitter pith on the peels you will be using in the cake. Chop them finely to add the zest to the cake.
  • I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour for this recipe but you can also use cake flour as well.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 448Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 205mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 1gSugar: 40gProtein: 9g

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