This Italian lemon ricotta cake is a classic Italian dessert that Italians make at special gatherings and the holidays. This Italian cake is a ciambella cake that is lightly flavored with lemon, olive oil and brown sugar and is kept so moist from the ricotta. This Italian ricotta cake is great served alongside coffee and can be eaten in the morning at breakfast or as a dessert.
The lemon in this ricotta cake:
There are many different Italian ricotta lemon cake recipes but this one is my favorite. This ricotta cake is super moist and has a beautiful delicate flavor of lemon.
The cake is perfectly balanced in flavor and so easy to make. This cake is like other traditional Italian cakes in that it will not be overly sweet but just right.
My family loves eating this cake at the holidays for breakfast which is what Italians traditionally eat in the mornings.
You can serve this Italian cake for breakfast or for dessert and it will great either way.
What is a Ciambella Cake
I have never been a big fan of specialized baking pans (or any specialized kitchen tools) but I made an exception with this ciambella cake pan.
This Italian cake is a cake called a ciambella because it is baked in a special ring mold (cake pan). Ciambella means donut in Italian and this baking mold makes this beautiful shape that Italians love to use when baking their cakes.
If you do not have a round cake mold, this cake can be made in a regular cake pan as well. For presentation, I love using the round cake pan.
There are many different cake pans you can use to bake this cake.
Other Cake pans that work great for this Italian Lemon Cake
- A Savarin mold (which is what I used here. This one is a 9.5 inch round nonstick mold (use as is for this recipe)
- The standard 9 inch round cake pan. (start by adding an additional 10 minutes more to the bake time)
- Large Bundt pan (add about 10 minutes or so to the bake time)
- Individual bundt cake pan (you will want to decrease the bake time by ¼ if you are making small individual serving size bundt cakes)
To use any of these pans, you would want to adjust the baking time and check the doneness of the cake periodically. Every oven will vary so this is good practice on any baking recipe.
The ingredients in this Ricotta Lemon Cake
The ingredients in this cake could not be simpler. There are not many and there are no special ingredients that you cannot find at your regular grocery store.
- All purpose flour. Your favorite brand will do!
- Whole milk ricotta (try to use whole milk since this has the most flavor). The ricotta i s what makes this a traditional Italian ricotta cake and it adds so much moisture.
- Eggs. I use large eggs for this recipe.
- Baking powder. This helps give the cake lift.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar
- Lemon. You want the juice and zest.
- Olive oil
- Milk. Try to use whole milk.
All very simple ingredients!
How to avoid air bubbles in your Italian lemon sponge cake
Whether you are making this Italian lemon ricotta cake or another cake, it will usually involve a lot of mixing or beating the eggs. This cake is no different.
The importance of me mentioning this is that when you beat your ingredients for a long time you will develop air bubbles (and lots of them). If you do not have a way to get rid of the air bubbles, your cake will have lots of holes.
Now this is not the end of the world if your cake has holes in it. It will not affect the taste either.
But to avoid these air bubbles, you will want to bang your cake pan (with the batter in it) very hard on the counter a few times to pop as many of these air bubbles as you can before you bake them in.
How to make Italian ricotta lemon cake
This traditional Italian cake is so easy to make. Just some basic stirring and measuring is all you need to make this. Here are the steps (full recipe below)
- Sift: Sift your dry ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix: Beat your wet ingredients for a few minutes until thick.
- Stir: Fold in your ricotta and then your dry ingredients into your bowl of wet ingredients.
- Pour: Pour it all into a cake pan.
- Sprinkle with a little brown sugar (optional but recommended).
- Give the cake pan a few good bangs to release the air bubbles.
How to serve this Italian lemon cake
I like to dust my cakes with powdered sugar once they are cooled. This not only makes the cake look beautiful, it adds a little extra sweetness to the cake.
Because I am not a huge fan of frosting, powdered sugar dusted lightly over my desserts is just enough extra sweetness and it makes it pretty. I do like to serve my desserts with homemade whipped cream on the side.
I add only a touch of sugar to the cream when I do this.
I try to rely on vanilla extract to give that extra flavor to the cream. You can of course add any special additions you love.
If you do have a sweet tooth and want lots of extra sweetness on top of this cake, you can add more sugar to the whipped cream or add some ice cream!
Topping for this Italian lemon sponge cake
When making this Italian lemon cake recipe I like to add a sprinkle of brown sugar to the cake before baking. There is no set amount to add but it does really add a nice flavor to the cake.
Because Italian cakes are traditionally less sweet, the brown sugar outside really works well.
This cake will not be overly sweet and the addition of the brown sugar won't make it that way either. It is a nice balanced cake with no overpowering notes of any kind.
I would make sure not to skip this step!
I hope you give this Italian lemon ricotta cake a try and love it as much as I do. If you do end up loving this cake and want to try another ciambella cake recipe, you would definitely like my ciambella yogurt cake with olive oil.
A completely different flavor profile from this one but also very delicious.
How to prepare the cake pan
When working with a ciambella cake pan, saverin mold or bundt pan, you will want to make sure to prepare the cake pan well before filling it. This will ensure that the cake will release from the pan after baking.
Here is what I like to do:
- Prepare your cake pan by rubbing butter all around the inside of your pan.
- Now add some flour to the pan and turn the cake pan around until the flour coats all of the buttered areas of the pan.
- Dump out any excess flour then proceed to filling the cake pans with the cake batter.
More Recipe Tips
Can you freeze ricotta cake
Ricotta cake freezes very well. Just wrap the cooled cake with plastic wrap and place in a freezer proof bag. When you want to thaw it, just place it in the fridge overnight (inside its bag) and let it defrost that way.
Should you refrigerate ricotta cake?
I like to leave my ricotta cake out for one day on the counter under a cake dome. After that, it goes in the fridge to keep it fresh. Ricotta cake has a lot of moisture so it can spoil quickly.
What can I do with the leftover ricotta cheese from this recipe?
I always make ricotta pancakes with the leftover ricotta. Ricotta lasts for a couple weeks in the fridge so you can make a batch of these yummy pancakes later in the week after you've made this recipe.
For More Italian Ricotta Recipes
If you loved this Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake, you may also like these:
More Italian Desserts
If you loved this Italian lemon sponge cake, then here are some more sweet Italian desserts you may like:
Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
- 1 ciambella cake pan or you can use a bundt pan or a 9 inch round cake pan
- 2 ¼ cup All Purpose Flour
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ cup light brown sugar packed for cake batter
- ¼ cup light brown sugar packed for sprinkling over the cake before baking
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lemon juice and zest Zest the rind of of 1 large lemon making sure not to scrape the white flesh part.
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
- Prepare your cake pan by rubbing butter all around the inside of your pan then adding 1 tablespoon of flour to the pan and turning it until the flour coats all of the buttered area of the pan.1 tablespoon butter
- Set your pan aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together your flour, salt and baking powder.2 ¼ cup All Purpose Flour, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder
- In a separate bowl add your eggs and your packed brown sugar and beat with a hand or stand mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed.4 large eggs, ½ cup light brown sugar packed
- Add in your lemon juice and zest and mix well.1 lemon juice and zest
- Now add your ricotta cheese, olive oil and milk and mix well.2 cups whole milk ricotta, ¼ cup olive oil, ¾ cup whole milk
- Next, grab the dry ingredients and add those in to your wet ingredients bowl and fold them in until it is well incorporated and there are no big lumps.
- Pour your cake batter into your prepared cake pan.
- Give your cake pan a few good bangs by holding it about 3 inches over your counter and letting it drop making sure your hands are guiding the cake pan so it does not fall off the counter.
- Bang out the air bubbles 3-4 times.
- Add brown sugar to the top of the cake by sprinkling this all around the top of the cake.¼ cup light brown sugar packed
- Place into your pre-heated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let cool on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes.
- Once cooled, flip the cake out of the pan by inverting the cake over a large plate.
- Now flip it back right side up.
- Continue to let it cool for another 20 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and enjoy.