Ahh cakes, man - to tell you the truth, I bloody hate them. Everything needs to be measured perfectly, flour gets everywhere, and don't forget the sticky hands. The problem is you see - is my daughter loves them. She is at an age where invention and imagination are the only currency required, and while such blind optimism is endearing and infectious - a great cake it don't always make. Until now.
We were at a café a few days ago, owned by some friends of mine. We had coffee and (an admittedly pretty good) orange cake. But inventive minds being the things they are; there is always room for improvement.
sneffette: "How could we make this cake richer - sorta like a cheesecake?"
sneff: "Hmm, how about ricotta? But that might cover the orange flavour."
sneffette: "What about lemon?"
The rest as they say - is confectionary history. We scored the orange cake recipe from my pals, stopped by the supermarket to stock the larder and set about creating the cake. Let me tell you - I was more than a little surprised. This cake is sensational. The ricotta takes the place of some of the butter from the original version, and so while it makes the cake lighter - it also improves the mouth-feel, resulting in a moist, rich and luxuriant texture. The extra acidity of lemon really gives the cake a nice tang, but feel free to substitute any citrus - lime, grapefruit, tangelo, blood orange, or whatever. It is nothing like a cheesecake, nor anything like a lemon sponge. For someone like me that doesn't really like cakes, I think it is pretty cool - and so do my pals at the café - they put it on the menu.
Preheat your oven to 170 °C (340 °F). Cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale, light and fluffy. Ideally do this in a mixmaster, but you can use a whisk and a strong arm if you don't own one. Add one egg, and mix well so it is fully incorporated. Continue adding the eggs one at a time until all 4 are used up. Add the ricotta and mix well. Tip all the flour in at once, and fold into the mixture while pouring in the lemon juice. Do not overwork the flour into the batter. Grease a 23 cm cake tin (preferably with a removable base) with butter, and line the bottom with non-stick paper. Pour in the cake batter and bake for 1 hour - or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a cake rack.
Mix together the icing ingredients and ice the cooled cake. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes before serving. Softly whipped cream, or creme fraiche would be perfect with this cake, and because it is so moist - it lasts well for around 4 days.