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Simple Blood Orange Ricotta Cake

by Lily
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The blood orange’s citrusy, floral, tart flavour is the star in this soft and subtly sweet ricotta cake. Each bite creates a beautiful balance between the tangy fruit and the soft cake texture. Don’t have blood oranges?  You can use Cara Cara or Navel oranges, even Tangerines!

When you hear ricotta cheese, do you automatically think of savoury dishes like lasagna or gnocchi? Don’t let the word ‘cheese’ fool you. This versatile dairy product is used in both sweet and savoury recipes.

So what is it? Ricotta is an Italian fresh soft cheese that translates to ‘recooked’. Ricotta cheese has a fluffy, lightly sweet and moist curd texture, similar to cottage cheese. Traditionally, it is made from leftover milk whey from other cheeses made with cow, goat, or sheep milk. Today, the ricotta cheese sold at your local supermarket is likely made from whole cow milk instead of milk whey (but some stores still sell the traditional whey cheese). You can also buy Ricotta as a full or low-fat version. Adding ricotta to cake is a wonderful way to create a moist and flavourful cake. My mom even loves using ricotta cheese to make a European style cheesecake that is not dense but soft and light.

*Good To Know*

  • What type of oranges can I use?
    You can use Cara Cara, Navel, or Blood oranges. Other types you can also try are Tangerines, Clementines, or Kumquats. Since my cake recipe is not sweet, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar added to accommodate the type of orange you are using. Some oranges may be more sour than others.

Ingredients you will need:

  • sugar
  • blood oranges  – I used 5 medium-sized oranges. If your oranges are large, use 3 or 4 oranges
  • zest – from two of the oranges
  • eggs – room temperature
  • ricotta cheese – room temperature (I used full-fat ricotta for better flavour & cake texture)
  • vanilla sugar (or extract)
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • unsalted butter – melted
  • whole milk – room temperature
  • Turbinado sugar – this is optional

How to make blood orange ricotta cake

To release the fragrant aroma from the blood oranges, add the white sugar and orange zest to the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix the sugar and orange zest on low speed with the paddle attachment for 3 minutes until the zest’s oil is infused into the sugar and has tinted the sugar a faint yellow colour.

Tip

  • Not sure how to zest an orange? I like to use this Microplane zester and ‘rub’ the orange in a straight line 2 times against the zester before shifting it over and repeating the same step. Do not drag the orange more than 2 times against the zester as that will grate into the orange’s spongy white (not to mention bitter) rind, also known as the pith. We only want the outside part of the fragrant peel.

On low speed, add one egg at a time into the sugar, adding the egg after each one is fully incorporated. Pause your mixer and scrape down the bowl with a spatula in between each addition. Then continue mixing the sugar and egg mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Add all of the ricotta cheese to the mixer bowl with vanilla sugar (or extract) and combine on medium-low speed for 1 minute.

Mix by hand to create a soft cake

To avoid over-mixing the cake batter, we are going to mix the rest of the ingredients by hand. Over mixing can cause a dense and chewy cake because of extra gluten development in the flour. 

Place a large mesh strainer over the mixer bowl and fill it with all-purpose flour and baking powder. Shake the strainer to filter the dry flour mix into the bowl. Add salt and fold together all of the ingredients with a spatula, until just combined.

Melt cold, cubed butter in the microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time. Stir in between heating until the butter has melted enough to fold it into the batter.  Then add cubed blood oranges and briefly fold. Be careful not to overmix to avoid discolouring the batter. Lastly, add room temperature milk and fold it into the batter until just combined.

Bake your cake

Brush your springform pan with enough melted butter to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Add 3 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour and tap flour around the pan to cover the entire surface area. Flip the springform pan over and tap out excess flour into a large bowl or your sink.

This method is also known as a cake pan release. It is my favourite method for cake pans since you do not need to fiddle with parchment paper to cut the right shape or size.

Pour cake batter into the pan and smooth it into an even layer with your spatula. Layer blood orange slices 1-inch apart on top and lightly press them into the batter. If you have turbinado sugar (raw sugar), sprinkle a teaspoon of it all around the cake surface for a little added sweetness and crunch. You can skip this if you do not have any. Brown or white sugar will not work here because they are more refined sugars and will melt and burn before the cake is finished baking. Turbinado grains are coarser and make an ideal finishing sugar.

Bake the cake at 350°F (177°C) for 45 to 50 minutes until the cake is golden brown or a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes. Then use a wooden skewer to run it along the edge of the cake. Open the springform and carefully remove it from the cake. Cool the cake for another 15 to 20 minutes before sprinkling icing sugar on the cake with a mesh strainer. Serve it with whipped cream or enjoy it as is.

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Simple Blood Orange Ricotta Cake

The blood orange's citrusy, floral, tart flavour is the star in this soft and subtly sweet ricotta cake. Each bite creates a beautiful balance between the tangy fruit and the soft cake texture. Don't have blood oranges?  You can use Cara Cara or Navel oranges, even Tangerines!
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

For the preparation

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons zest from 2 blood oranges
  • 5 medium (655 g) blood oranges, or Navel oranges. Trim and cut off the peel including the pith (the white spongy part) with a sharp knife.

For the cake

  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups (492 g) Ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (118 ml) whole milk (3.25% M.F), room temperature

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

For the garnish

  • 1 Tablespoon icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS 

Prepare the ingredients

  • Make sure your oven rack is placed on the middle shelf and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Brush your 10-inch springform pan with enough melted butter to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Add 3 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour and tap flour around the pan to cover the entire surface area. Flip the springform pan over and tap out excess flour into a large bowl or your sink.
  • Zest 2 of the blood oranges with a Microplane zester (or a small cheese grater) and set aside in a small bowl for now.
  • Trim the top and bottom of the blood orange with a sharp knife. Then cut off the peel all around the orange including the pith (the white spongy part). This should leave you with just the fruit. Do this for all 5 oranges.
  • Cut 3 of the oranges into 1-inch cubes and set them aside in a bowl. Slice the remaining 2 oranges into 1/2-inch thick round slices and set them aside in a bowl for now. Remove any seeds that may be present with the tip of your knife.

Make the cake

  • To release the fragrant aroma from the blood oranges, add the white sugar and orange zest to the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix the sugar and orange zest on low speed with the paddle attachment for 3 minutes until the zest’s oil is infused into the sugar and has tinted the sugar a faint yellow colour.
  • On low speed, add one egg at a time into the sugar, adding the egg after each one is fully incorporated. Pause your mixer and scrape down the bowl with a spatula in between each addition. Then continue mixing the sugar and egg mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes.
  • Add ricotta cheese and vanilla sugar (or extract) to the mixer bowl and combine on medium-low speed for 1 minute.
  • Remove the mixer bowl from your stand mixer and place a large mesh strainer over the mixer bowl. Fill the strainer with all-purpose flour and baking powder. Shake the strainer to filter the dry flour mix into the bowl. Add salt and fold together all of the ingredients with a spatula, until just combined.
  • Melt cold, cubed butter in the microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time. Stir the butter in between heating until the butter has melted enough and fold it into the batter.
  • Add the cubed blood oranges and briefly fold them into the batter being careful not to overmix to avoid discolouring the batter. Lastly, add room temperature milk and fold it into the batter until just combined.
  • Pour cake batter into the pan and smooth it into an even layer with your spatula. Layer blood orange slices 1-inch apart on top and lightly press them into the batter. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar all around the cake surface. Skip the turbinado sugar if you do not have any.
  • Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes until the cake is golden brown or a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes. Then use a wooden skewer to run it along the edge of the cake. Open the springform and carefully remove it from the cake. Cool the cake for another 15 to 20 minutes before sprinkling icing sugar on the cake with a mesh strainer. Serve it with whipped cream or enjoy it as is.
Category: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian, Italian
Keyword: blood orange, cake, cheese, ricotta

Tips

What type of oranges can I use?
You can use Cara Cara, Navel, or Blood oranges. Other types you can also try are Tangerines, Clementines, or Kumquats. Since my cake recipe is not sweet, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar added to accommodate the type of orange you are using. Some oranges may be more sour than others.
Notes:
  • Not sure how to zest an orange? I like to use this Microplane zester and ‘rub’ the orange in a straight line 2 times against the zester before shifting it over and repeating the same step. Do not drag the orange more than 2 times against the zester as that will grate into the orange’s spongy white (not to mention bitter) rind, also known as the pith. We only want the outside part of the fragrant peel.
Your Own Digital Notes
Nutrition Facts
Simple Blood Orange Ricotta Cake
Serving Size
 
1 slice
Amount per Serving
Calories
386
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
21
g
32
%
Saturated Fat
 
13
g
81
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
6
g
Cholesterol
 
104
mg
35
%
Sodium
 
275
mg
12
%
Potassium
 
203
mg
6
%
Carbohydrates
 
43
g
14
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
24
g
27
%
Protein
 
9
g
18
%
Vitamin A
 
805
IU
16
%
Vitamin C
 
30
mg
36
%
Calcium
 
174
mg
17
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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