A fluffy, fresh lemon ricotta cake for spring baking. With a moist and tender crumb thanks to the ricotta and a healthy amount of almond flour, all coated in a tangy cream cheese icing.
This recipe was originally shared in March 2018. It’s been updated with improvements to the text and recipe as of April 2020.
Lemon Ricotta Cake
This is a fluffy, bright tasting cake (think your favourite lemon ricotta pancakes but in an extra decadent form) with the perfect amount of silky smooth cream cheese frosting. It’s the kind of cake you want for any sort of spring event you can think of. A baby shower, retirement party, even as a small wedding cake!
The cake itself has a very moist and tender crumb due to the amount of ricotta in the recipe. That being said, the cake layers are still quite sturdy, making it a great cake for layering and a base for a naked cake. Keep the tips from our post on how to make a naked cake in mind when making this into a minimally iced cake and you’ll have a spring themed cake perfect for any celebration.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Granulated sugar
- Lemons for zesting
- All-purpose flour
- Almond Flour
- Baking powder and salt
- Lemon Juice
Plus cream cheese, more butter, confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, a bit of milk, and vanilla for the icing if you’re going for the cream cheese icing.
Making the Cake
Please note that this is a fairly large, three layer cake, and you’ll need three 6-inch (15cm) pans. That said, if you’re looking for a more everyday cake, you can halve the recipe and bake it in a standard 9-inch (23cm) pan.
The first step is to flavour your sugar with lemon zest (so good) by rubbing the zest into the sugar with your hands. Then you cream the butter and sugar together, either with a standing mixer or electric handheld mixer. Mix in the eggs one by one, followed by vanilla. Easy, peasy.
Combine the dry ingredients and set aside, then mix that lemon juice and ricotta. Now you add the remaining ingredients in a couple steps – half the flour blend and half the ricotta, then mix to combine, then add the other halves, and mix again. As with any cake, make sure you don’t over mix.
Bake for just over half an hour, and definitely cool completely before icing and serving. If you try to ice while it’s still warm you will have cream cheese puddles.
It seems complicated because it’s a layer cake, but it’s really not! The cakes are sturdy, the icing is sturdy, and it’ll all hold together nicely. If you’re nervous you can use a couple skewers through the cake to be completely certain nothing will move around.
Decorating Your Lemon Ricotta Cake
To decorate as pictured, you’ll need a handful of figs, a few sprigs of preferably edible flowers, and a couple of macarons. Follow the guidelines laid out in the naked cakes tutorial and you’ll have no trouble at all here – this method of icing is one of the easiest and it looks beautiful.
If you really want to go all out with citrus, try topping the cake off with some candied mixed peel. Cut into strips and curls, it looks fresh and vibrant and suits this recipe well.
If you want to keep the base recipe but go a little more over the top with decoration, you can try using buttercream and add buttercream roses or a variety of tips – here are some guidelines on using piping tips to create different forms for your cake.
You can use a buttercream for the icing, as discussed above, or use simple whipped cream (especially nice if you’re halving the recipe). Substitutions mostly apply to the decorations for this recipe and we don’t recommend changing up the cake itself apart from switching up the citrus or adding some spice.
Try a blood orange cake in the winter, or go nuts with a mix of grapefruit and lemon. We think a hint of cardamom would be a nice addition to this with the lemon, and so would ginger. A bit of lemon curd in the middle would be amazing.
Looking for more show stopping cakes?
Lemon Ricotta Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- 3 6-inch (15cm) cake pans
- 3 mixing bowling
- Hand or stand mixer
- Wire rack
For the Lemon Ricotta Cake
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Zest of two lemons
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¾ cup cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease three 6-inch (15 cm) cake pans with butter. Set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, rub together the lemon zest and sugar with your hands, until the sugar becomes fragrant. Set aside.
- Add the butter to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Add the sugar and mix on high speed to cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and lighter in colour.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together to combine.
- In a smaller bowl or large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and lemon juice.
- Add half of the flour mixture and half of the ricotta mixture to the large mixing bowl with the creamed ingredients.
- Mix on low speed until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and ricotta blend, and mix on low, again until just incorporated. Don't over mix.
- Fill the prepared cake pans with approximately equal amounts of cake batter.
- Bake for 33 – 35 minutes, until lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool for 15 minutes in the pans before removing to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
For the Frosting
- Place the cream cheese and butter into a large bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer until very smooth.
- Add the sugar, milk, and vanilla, and mix on low until combined (this is to avoid a powdered sugar explosion).
- Once mixed, beat on high speed until very light and fluffy.
- Ice the cake following the directions on how to make a naked cake. You may have extra icing leftover. It keeps well, refrigerated in a sealed container, for up to a week.