Quince & Dark Chocolate Ricotta Crumb Cake
Luscious, creamy ricotta would have to be one of my favourite ingredients of late. Being so versatile it's always so handy to have sitting in the fridge to use in lasagne's, tarts, fritters, pancakes. Whipped until smooth with parmesan, the zest of a lemon and vibrant green herbs to make a creamy dip. It can also be used, of course, to create those soft little pillowy delights - gnocchi.
Many a cake recipe also calls for the snow-white moulded cheese just like this Ricotta crumb cake. I stumbled across Juls' Kitchen blog and her Instagram page via one of Sophie Hansen's @locallovely newsletters (which by the way is always such a joy to receive in my inbox) and I fell instantly in love, not only with the food Giulia shares but the way in which she writes - transporting me to the very table in the wheat fields of Val d'Orcia, the place where she first tasted the still-warm, creamy ricotta filled, chocolate studded cake whilst sitting around the table in her friends' kitchen.
I printed out the recipe then and there, sticking it up onto the fridge with the other "to bake" recipes. It is a cake that can be the vehicle for so many different flavour combinations, varying throughout the changing seasons so that no matter what you happen to have on hand there will always be something to fill it with. Giulia gives a few examples on her blog including, grapes and rosemary, preserved apricots and jammy figs. I just so happened to have an almost empty jar of mixed berry jam and a few rogue strawberries in the fridge the first time I made it, which once baked, very quickly disappeared off the kitchen bench. A sure fire way to know that I should probably make it again. This time I added ruby red wedges of quince, a shower of shredded coconut and coarsely chopped dark chocolate - the latter being cheekily pinched by my little helper, Beau. The two of us made this just the other day on my Instagram stories, which I have saved in my highlights under "Beau bakes" if you fancy having a laugh.
It really is such an easy, simply treat to create and a great one to make with little ones too, as they can get their hands into the crumbly buttery mixture, which does of course end up in a mess but it can always be very easily cleaned up. Giulia says that "it is an unpretentious, humble cake" the type that can be enjoyed still warm from the oven or straight from the fridge...I may have just enjoyed another piece as I write this while the sun warms my shoulders and I dream once again of sitting in an Italian kitchen; scents of lemon drifting through the open windows and the olive trees swaying in the late afternoon breeze, all intermingled with the musical notes of Italian conversations.
I highly recommend heading over to Giulia's page @julskitchen
to immerse yourself in the heart-warming, soul nourishing Italian way of cooking. She also has a podcast, Cooking with an Italian accent that will transport you once again to the beauty that is Italy.
Quince and dark chocolate ricotta crumb cake.
This recipe has been slightly adapted from Giulia's Ricotta Crumb Cake which can be found on her blog https://en.julskitchen.com/
Makes a 25cm cake
For the cake
250g plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of a lemon
1/4 cup shredded coconut
100g almond meal
50g caster sugar
100g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
For the filling
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup apricot syrup (or you could use some of your favourite dessert wine, or syrup from the poached quinces)
zest of a lemon
1/4 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
enough poached quince slices to cover the base, you can find the recipe for the poached quinces here
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and line a 25cm springfrom cake tin with butter and baking paper and set aside.
Place the flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, salt, coconut and lemon zest in a bowl and give it a quick whisk to combine. Add in the butter and using your fingertips rub it into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine crumbs.
Add the beaten egg and using the fingertips again bring it all togther until its combined. you should be able to squeeze a handful and it wil stick togther. It doesnt have to come togther like a dough.
In a separate bowl, add the ricotta, sugar, syrup or poaching liquid and lemon zest and give it a good stir until its smooth, add in the chopped dark chocolate and stir to combine.
Now place about half of the crumb mixture into the base of your tin and press down firmly until its all even. Spoon in the ricotta and smooth this out with the back of a spoon or offset spatula and then place the sliced quinces in a pretty pattern on top. Scatter over the remaining crumb mixture and very lightly pat it down.
Pop it into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until its pale golden and set in the middle when lightly touched.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. You can enjoy this either warm or at room temperature and its also lovely straight from the fridge too.