Why did I make this cake? Was it a birthday, a dinner party, or a pot-luck brunch? Was I testing recipes for a new cookbook or auditioning one that I fell for at a bookstore? Did I see this recipe online and found it irresistible? Was it a Friday treat to relieve the pressure of a long week? For someone who might never run out of “excuses” to make cake in this lifetime, you’d think I’d come up with something more exciting than the truth, which is that I could only find a big tub of ricotta at the store when I made ziti last time, and forced myself to find a clever way to use it up. Alas, I rather enjoy a challenge and so it’s cake o’clock again; rejoice!
But, if I’m being honest, I really wanted a cannoli, I mean, the good kind, the kind that’s in a hand-formed shell that’s been deep-fried to a crackly crisp and is filled only once you order it so the outer crunch remains intact. A proper cannoli, with orange and lemon peel and a whiff of Marsala, chopped pistachios and always, always, always with the miniature chocolate chips.
And so these things happily met up in a loaf pan. If you have my first cookbook, there’s a recipe for a ricotta cake which I created using a French yogurt cake for inspiration, the one that’s classically measured in yogurt cups. Swapping ricotta for yogurt, and olive oil for something more neutral, that one is finished with a concord grape sauce and it’s wonderful this time of year. This might be even better. In a tall pan, it bakes up high and with a cracked top with an excellent crisp to it. Inside, it’s tender and on the second day, even more lush, should it survive so long. It absolutely bursts with cannoli flavor, about as close as you’re going to get in a one-bowl pound cake. And, if you took my hint last time and also “accidentally” bought the big ricotta, you’re definitely going to have enough for two or three cakes, and absolutely no regrets will come of that.
One year ago: Better Chocolate Babka
Two years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl
Three years ago: Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Four years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
Five years ago: Roasted Eggplant Soup
Six years ago: Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
Seven years ago: Balsamic-Glazed Sweet-and-Sour Onions, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake and The Best Challah I Know How To Make
Eight years ago: Gazpacho Salad and Hello Dolly Bars
Nine years ago: Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Wild Mushroom Paté and Obsessively Good Avocado and Cucumber Salad
1.5 Years Ago: Asparagus-Stuffed Eggs
2.5 Years Ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
3.5 Years Ago: Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
4.5 Years Ago: French Onion Soup
Cannoli Pound Cake
Butter or cooking spray to coat pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
Finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sweet marsala wine or 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
1 cup (250 grams) whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 or 2 pinches allspice
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (170 grams) mini-chocolate chips or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate bar, chopped into tiny bits
1/2 cup (60 grams) pistachios, chopped small
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Coat a standard (8 1/2-x-4 1/4″) loaf pan with butter or a nonstick spray.
Place sugar in a large bowl, and add zest. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar, scenting it througout. Whisk in olive oil, wine (if using), ricotta and eggs. Sprinkle baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice over wet ingredients, then whisk to combine. Gently stir in flour, then chocolate and pistachios until just combined.
Scrape into prepared loaf. Bake oven for 55 to 65 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out-batter free. Let cool on wire rack in pan for 15 minutes, then invert out onto rack to finish cooling. Cake is great the first day, and even more amazingly moist on the second and third, so feel free to plan ahead. Store at room temperature, covered with foil or plastic.