If you’re anything like me and have not yet met a pumpkin pie you liked, and the idea of making yet another apple pie for Thanksgiving is making you yawn, have I got a cake for you. I spied it first in LA Times online edition and was immediately drawn to the word “ricotta” in it. Also cornmeal, cranberries, and orange caught my eye. It was as if someone read my mind and found all the ingredients I have been obsessing over at the time and found a way to marry them together.
I’m not sure why, but ricotta cheese has been on my mind a lot and I’ve been looking for ways to add it to as many dishes as I could. Places where it belongs and places where it perhaps does not. I will even admit to actually eating it off a spoon with my eyes semi-closed, as if in some kind of a reverie. Maybe it’s my body’s way of telling me I need more dairy in my life or calcium, but ricotta, my love, has been a ingredient I want to write lyrical poems about. I like what it does to baked textures – softening them, and making them cloud-like, lighter and more delicate. The same dough texture seems to be lifted up, melting in your mouth and not leaving that heavy, bready feeling.
You would think that by my superlative description of ricotta and the burning desire to make this cake that it was a fairly recent recipe, but no. I just couldn’t get my act together for over a month. I had this recipe at the top of the pile and just couldn’t get around to it for one reason or another. And then the morning I was determined to bake this cake, I couldn’t find the recipe. After a few hours of searching, I found it, but by then it was kitchen painting time and so I had to put the recipe away and paint. Yesterday, of course, when I was all but ready to start my baking, I couldn’t remember where I had put the recipe the day before. Seriously, I could use some organizing in my life!
I finally did locate the recipe, but it’s embarrassing that I managed to lose it twice in my compact New York apartment. Imagine if I had a bigger place, never mind an actual house!
All in all, this is a keeper. I think that I would double the amount of maple syrup and decrease the sugar a bit – but I wonder if that will mess with the consistency. I would also use Grade B rather than Grade A syrup. But all in all, the ricotta makes it delicate and comforting. The cake is not too sweet, which I really like, and has a tart bite, thanks to the cranberries.
A tip to those who love to bake with cranberries but find them impossible to find after most of the year. I buy 7-8 bags of them around this time of year, freeze them, and use them in baking throughout the year. Cranberries keep frozen remarkably well.
Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake with Ricotta
Adapted from pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon via LA Times
2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ tbsp vanilla
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp (1 ¾ sticks) butter
1 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
2 ¼ tsp salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 2/1 cups cranberries, divided
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, which together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 ½ cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined, do not overmix.
4. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
6. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp sugar.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cook the cake on a wire rack before removing it from pan.
I didn’t get around to acquiring 9 in cake pan just yet, so I used an 8 inch one – I realized I needed 2 of them to make the batter fit. I baked for about an hour, not the indicated time, but I advise checking on the cake after about 45 minutes.