This Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake is delicious – the ricotta adds richness and moisture while the lemon brings that fresh flavour. This take on an Italian cheesecake is sure to be a family favourite. It’ll be the cake your guests ask you to bake for whenever they’re planning to visit!
As far as traditional recipes go, the lemon ricotta cake is an Italian classic that really doesn’t get the kind of recognition it deserves. I know, I know, cream cheese is generally more easily available and easier to store and use than ricotta but, in my very humble opinion, this Italian cake just deserves more acclaim.
In Italy, lemon ricotta cakes can be found at panetterias (bakeries), many coffee shops, and even in supermarkets. We need to make that happen here in North America too.
(If you happen to be in France, you can find something quite similar called a gâteau au citron et à la ricotta, which is French for “cake with lemon and ricotta”.)
What is Lemon Ricotta Cake
You can think of lemon ricotta cake as the Italian version for a traditional lemon cake or lemon drizzle cake with some subtle changes. Thanks to the combination of ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest, this Italian cheesecake is a bit denser while also hold more natural moisture. It’s less sweet than most lemon cake recipes, making it fairly versatile…it’s a perfect as dessert, but also makes for an excellent teatime snack.
Some other versions of this cake are made using semolina or almond flour.
How to make an Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
Compared to many cake recipes, this recipe doesn’t require much work at all. Once you’ve prepared an adequate cake tin, or springform pan, it’s a matter of (separately) mixing your wet (starting with creaming your butter and sugar, followed by adding in the lemon zest and juice, the eggs, and finally the ricotta!) and dry ingredients, before ultimately combining to form the batter. Pour it into your prepared pan, and bake. Ideally, listening to some Italian classics on the radio (or your phone).
As far as cake ingredients go, this one doesn’t require too many ingredients:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Unsalted butter
- Sugar (for a touch of sweetness)
- Lemons (for the lemony-ness)
- Vanilla extract
- Ricotta cheese (this is what makes the cake rich and moist)
Tips for the best Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
- Use room temperature ingredients.
- Zest your lemons before juicing them for less finicky zesting experience.
- To avoid a ridiculously dense cake, be careful not to overmix the batter. If you’re using an electric mixer, you may want to switch to a wooden spoon or spatula when it comes times to mix in the dry ingredients.
- Once cooked, you might be wondering how to get the parchment paper off the base of the cake. Carefully invert the cake on to another plate, peel off the parchment paper, and carefully revert.
- This cake has the tendency to sometimes stick to the pan. Make sure to butter the sides of the pan generously, and remove the cake carefully.
Simple cake recipes like this one are a bit more adaptable to small changes. You can do something as simple as adding some warm notes to the cake by including a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg, or go a bit bigger with some of the suggestions below.
Double the recipe, and make the cake twice. Spread your favourite lemon curd inbetween the layers, and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. It’s glorious.
Berries and powdered sugar
The easiest variation on this Italian cheesecake is simply topping it with berries and sprinkling some powdered sugar on top. The berries add tartness, while the sugar makes sure that the berry tart and the lemon ricotta tartness don’t overpower you. (And why yes, that’s exactly the version I’ve used in the photos. Because, pretty, pretty berries make Riz happy.)
Strawberries & Cream
A great way to make this cake work for all sorts of occasions is to swap out the mascarpone with whipped cream, and add on some sliced strawberries. I mean, face it. Strawberries and whipped cream is almost always a good idea!
To make a slightly fluffier version of this Italian lemon ricotta cake, you could beat the ricotta with the butter and sugar, before mixing in any other ingredients. This will require a lot of beating, so I would recommend using an electric stand mixer. And do note, by virtue of the cake being fluffier, it won’t have the same dense hit of flavour that I really appreciate it for (but it will still be quite delicious in a different way).
What to do if you don’t have mascarpone
If you don’t have mascarpone, I wouldn’t necessarily run out and buy some to serve alongside a lemon ricotta cake. You can swap out the mascarpone for unsweetened whipped cream.
Skimmed or full-fat ricotta
Partly skimmed ricotta will work, but I encourage you to go with ricotta in all its glory for maximum flavour.
Using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour
This is a dense cake that doesn’t really benefit from using cake flour instead of regular all-purpose. However, if all you have on hand is cake flour, you can use it without any worries.
The flour can be swapped out with gluten free flour on a 1:1 ratio. The cake isn’t exactly the same, but it’s fairly close. It does tend to not rise as much, so please do keep this in mind if you opt for this route.
This cake stays well at room temperature for up to three days. If you refrigerate in an airtight container, that lifespan increases to up to five days before dryness begins to really set in.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this cake.
More dessert recipes
- Lemon Curd Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
- Burnt Basque Cheesecake
- Two Layer Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cocoa Buttercream
- Strawberry Shortcake Mug Cake
- Japanese Cotton Cheesecake
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A stand mixer and a good microplane would be super helpful for this recipe. You can get by without both, but it makes life tougher.
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So…what did you think of this Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake? Are you in zesty citrus cakes like this one? Let me know in the comments below.
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Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 lemon ricotta cake 1x
- Diet: Vegetarian
This Italian Lemon Ricotta cake is a deliciously rich and moist take on a cheesecake that’s not too sweet – making it perfect as a dessert, as well as a teatime snack.
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 medium lemons, zested and juiced
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups ricotta
- Preheat oven to 355 degrees F, and prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in the lemon juice and zest.
- Add one egg at a time, mixing well, until all 3 eggs are well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Gently fold in about half of the flour mixture, until just incorporated.
- Mix in the ricotta. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, until just combined.
- Pour into your prepared baking dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before carefully removing from the cake tin (it’s a delicate little thing).
- Serve warm, with a smile…and a generous dollop of mascarpone!
- I used a standard 9-inch springform pan. To prepare the pan, I inserted a lightly buttered sheet of parchment paper. You can use an unbuttered sheet, or just generously butter a baking dish – all are fine options. (I like the buttered parchment option…because parchment paper makes it easier to remove the cake, and because I’ll take any and every opportunity to add more butter to a recipe.) That said, this cake does sometimes stick, so if presentation is a big deal to you, you’ll want to butter generously, and remove it carefully.
- If using a loaf pan, I’ve made this recipe using a standard 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan.
- If you happen to have big whisking muscles, you can cream your butter and sugar by hand. I use an electric mixer.
- Zest your lemons before juicing them – life is just easier that way.
- To add some warm notes to the cake, include a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Using fresh juice means this cake will be super moist. If you cut into it, and it looks a little wet (but still cooked), then that’s totally fine. That stickiness is delicious.
- If you don’t have mascarpone on hand, don’t worry. It’s a lovely addition to the cake however, the cake is delicious without it too. (Unsweetened whipped cream and berries work well too.)
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake, Lemon Ricotta Cake, Italian cheesecake
I have not heard of this but anything Italian must be good! It looks delicious.
Thanks so much for commenting, Aileen! I love this cake alongside a cup of tea or coffee on a lazy afternoon. I hope you enjoy it too!
Christine M York
Made this last night and it was delicious. Will make again
So happy to hear it, Christine! Thank you for commenting 🙂