Baking/ Christmas/ Dessert/ Easter/ European/ Recipes

Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake

03/12/2022

Moist and rich, this easy lemon ricotta cake uses simple ingredients to bring you one very tasty dessert. A simplified take on a traditional Italian cake, perfect for celebrations like Christmas, Easter or Mother’s Day!

Slice of ricotta cake on a plate with a cake fork in the foreground.

Why We Love This

This amazing lemon ricotta cake is so easy to make with simple baking staples. Just 15 minutes prep then bake it in the oven. Done!

We love the delicious citrus flavour from the lemon zest and the moist, fluffy texture from the ricotta.

Make it into one big tall cake, or separate the batter into two pans for smaller versions to give as gifts or share with family.

Related: Sicilian Cuddura / No Bake Lemon Slice / Greek Milk Pie

Lemon ricotta cake on a plate showing the golden brown crust, dusted with icing sugar.

What is Lemon Ricotta Cake? 

Italian style lemon ricotta cake originated in Sicily. There are lots of variations depending on the region – some include a pie crust, cinnamon or orange zest / juice, while some include all three!

You’ll find versions made with a single crust (crust on the bottom) or double crust (crust on the top and bottom) too. We wanted to make a simplified version with no pie crust, and more flour added to the mix to help it hold together. The result is so decadent, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

This is a popular baking recipe over Easter, just like our Greek koulourakia, cantucci biscotti or Italian colomba cake.

Reader Cooking Success Stories

Freshly baked lemon ricotta cake served with cream and strawberries.

@timbarism

Nothing hotter! Moist citrus, aerated crumb. Didn’t need the strawberries and cream, but it deserved it!

What You’ll Need

  • Ricotta – Regular supermarket ricotta is fine – aim for whole milk, full fat ricotta for creamy, moist texture with a hint of sweetness. Some delicatessens will sell ricotta that has been stored in water, so it’s best to avoid these versions or be sure to drain out the liquid as much as possible before mixing the batter.  Don’t like ricotta? Make our lemon polenta cake with homemade buttermilk instead!
  • Eggs – For best results use room-temperature eggs. 
  • Sugar – We recommend caster sugar, aka super fine sugar. You can also use raw sugar or regular white sugar as a substitute.
  • Self Raising Flour – This already has baking powder in the mix. If using all purpose flour, add in 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.
  • Lemon Zest – You can substitute lemon zest with orange zest if you prefer. You can also leave it out if you want a plain ricotta cake.
  • Vanilla Essence – This adds an extra layer of deliciousness to the cake. Leave it our, or sub with almond essence if you like!
Ingredients laid out to make Lemon Ricotta Cake.

How to Make Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake

First, gather your ingredients: See recipe card below for measurements.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C / 360°F. Grease a springform pan or tall cake pan with butter or oil, or line with baking paper.
  2. Add softened butter and sugar into a large bowl or stand mixer. Mix for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy. Add the ricotta cheese and continue mixing on a medium-high setting for 5 minutes.
  3. In a small jug, whisk together the eggsvanilla essence and lemon zest. Pour into the ricotta mix and incorporate on a low-medium setting. Note: The batter will look curdled at this stage – don’t worry! It’s normal for this batter, and your cake will be perfect once cooked.
  1. Add the self raising flour and slowly fold through the mixture using a wooden spoon. Note: Don’t over mix this step, continue until just combined.
  2. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out out the surface with the back of the spoon. Transfer to the bottom or middle rack in the oven and bake for around 40-50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Note: Watch for the top as it starts to brown, this is usually a sign it’s almost ready.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Take out of the pan, slice and serve. Optional: Dust with icing sugar.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Ricotta – If you have watery ricotta, always drain it first. This will give you the best texture in the final cake.
  • Batter – Make sure to beat the batter for a good few minutes to avoid an eggy/spongy texture in the final cake. Remember, it will look curdled when you add the eggs into the mix – this is totally normal!
  • Baking – Always use the middle rack so it doesn’t cook too quickly. Check frequently to avoid the top browning too much. If it’s starting to brown before the cake has cooked through, you can cover the top with a layer of alfoil.
  • Using Two Pans? – If you’re splitting the batter into two shallower pans, you may need to reduce the cooking time. Check at the 30 minute mark and if a skewer comes out clean after piercing the centre, it’s done.
  • Store in the Fridge – Since this cake includes ricotta (aka cheese), it should be kept refrigerated and served chilled. 

FAQs

My ricotta cake texture is a bit grainy, what happened?

Ricotta is naturally grainy, but some brands may be more grainy than others. Different versions have different textures. Try whisking it separately for a few minutes before using it in this recipe, or try a different brand next time.

Can I freeze lemon ricotta cake?

You sure can. Once it’s completely cooled, pop in an airtight freezer-proof container and freeze for up to 2 months.

What size cake tin should I use?

This recipe is ideal for baking in a circular cake pan around 20-22 cm / 8-9 inches.

Variations

  • Topping Ideas – Serve with whipped cream and berries – strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are all amazing options. For an even sweeter treat, top with a sprinkling of crystallised sugar. 
  • Add Flavour – A tablespoon or two of Amaretto, Frangelico or Marsala can give the cake a nice addition of flavour.
Slice of ricotta cake with the remaining cake slices in the background.

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★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and star rating below!

Close up shot of a slice of lemon ricotta cake.

Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake

Moist and rich, this easy lemon ricotta cake uses simple ingredients to bring you one very tasty dessert. A simplified take on a traditional Italian cake, perfect for celebrations like Christmas, Easter or Mother's Day!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Course: Cake, Dessert, Easter
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 10 slices
Calories: 419kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Equipment

  • 1 24 cm / 9×9 in round cake tin

Ingredients

  • 180 g butter softened, 6.5 oz
  • 1 ½ cups self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese strained if watery, 400 g / 14 oz
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 zest of one lemon

Optional:

Instructions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C / 360°F. Grease a springform pan or tall cake pan with butter or oil, or line with baking paper.
  • Add softened butter and sugar into a large bowl or stand mixer. Mix for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
    180 g butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Add the ricotta cheese and continue mixing on a medium-high setting for 5 minutes.
    2 cups ricotta cheese
  • In a small jug, whisk together the eggsvanilla essence and lemon zest. Pour into the ricotta mix and incorporate on a low-medium setting. Note: The batter will look curdled at this stage – don’t worry! It’s normal for this batter, and your cake will be perfect once cooked.
    3 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla essence, 1 zest of one lemon
  • Add the self raising flour and slowly fold through the mixture using a wooden spoon. Note: Don't over mix this step, continue until just combined.
    1 ½ cups self raising flour
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out out the surface with the back of the spoon. Transfer to the bottom or middle rack in the oven and bake for around 40-50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Note: Watch for the top as it starts to brown, this is usually a sign it's almost ready.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Take out of the pan, slice and serve. Optional: Dust with icing sugar.
    icing sugar / powdered sugar

Video

YouTube video

Recipe Notes

  • Ricotta – Regular supermarket ricotta is best – aim for whole milk, full fat ricotta for creamy, moist texture with a hint of sweetness. Some delicatessens will sell ricotta that has been stored in water, so it’s best to avoid these versions. If you have a watery ricotta, always drain it first. This will give you the best texture in the final cake.
  • Eggs – For best results, make sure to use room-temperature eggs.
  • Sugar – We recommend caster sugar, aka super fine sugar. You can also use raw sugar as a substitute.
  • Self Raising Flour – This already has baking powder in the mix, if using all purpose flour, add in 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.
  • Lemon Zest – You can substitute your lemon zest with orange in a pinch or leave it out.
    Vanilla Essence – Leave out if you prefer, or substitute with almond essence if you like.
  • Batter – Make sure to beat the batter for a good few minutes to avoid an eggy/spongy texture in the final cake. Remember, it will look curdled when you add the eggs into the mix – this is totally normal!
  • Baking – Always use the middle rack so it doesn’t cook too quickly. Check frequently to avoid the top browning too much. If it’s starting to brown before the cake has cooked through, you can cover the top with a layer of alfoil.
  • Using Two Pans? – If you’re splitting the batter into two shallower pans, you may need to reduce the cooking time. Check at the 30 minute mark and if a skewer comes out clean after piercing the centre, it’s done.
  • Store in the Fridge – Since this cake includes ricotta (aka cheese), it should be kept refrigerated and served chilled. 
  • Topping Ideas – Serve with whipped cream and berries such as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. For an even sweeter treat, top with a sprinkling of crystallised sugar.
  • Add Flavour – A tablespoon or two of Amaretto, Frangelico or Marsala can give the cake quite a nice addition of flavour.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
Amount per Serving
Calories
419
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
23
g
35
%
Saturated Fat
 
14
g
88
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
6
g
Cholesterol
 
113
mg
38
%
Sodium
 
177
mg
8
%
Potassium
 
96
mg
3
%
Carbohydrates
 
45
g
15
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
30
g
33
%
Protein
 
10
g
20
%
Vitamin A
 
741
IU
15
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
118
mg
12
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Easy Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Gae
    31/08/2023 at 2:33 pm

    Absolutely delicious, added 2 tablespoons of homemade limoncello, served with lemon curd.High rating with near neighbours who I love to share new recipes with to their delight. Thank you

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      31/08/2023 at 7:47 pm

      That sounds fabulous Gae! I love that you shared it with your neighbours too, what a wonderful thought!

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