This is the only cake I make with any sort of regularity, usually once a week, more often than not on Sunday night so that the impact of Monday morning is softened by cake. It’s based on the yoghurt-pot cake my friend Ruth taught me, for which you use a carton of plain yoghurt, then use the carton to measure out the rest of the ingredients. But I decided to double quantities, substitute ricotta for yoghurt and add lemon zest, which meant the proportions of oil and sugar changed; in short, a set of scales seemed wise.
It’s still a cake for the baking-inhibited, though, the kind you can rustle up quickly with minimal mess. The ricotta gives it a creamy depth and means it stays moist, the olive oil provides the necessary fat, and the lemon zest gives it a little warm whiplash and a dose of mood-lifting citrus. It’s simple and extremely good, and accommodating, too; as comfortable on a breakfast table as it is wrapped in a paper napkin and stuffed into a pocket for a morning snack; as good beside a cup of tea at four o’clock as it is with a glass of sweet wine after dinner – or a shot of brandy at nine o’clock.
Makes 12 slices
extra-virgin olive oil 200ml, plus extra for greasing
plain flour 250g, plus extra for dusting
baking powder 2 heaped tsp (I use a packet of lievito, an Italian raising agent of seemingly magical powers)
eggs 4, large
unwaxed lemons zest of 2
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4 and grease and flour a ring or bundt tin approximately 23cm in diameter, or a standard 1kg loaf tin. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta and olive oil, then add the eggs one by one, beating between each addition, until smooth.
Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until you have a thick batter. Add the lemon zest, stir again, then pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for 30-40 minutes if you are using a ring tin (40-50 for a loaf tin), or until the cake is golden and fully set. I check it with a strand of spaghetti, but you can use a knife or skewer: insert it into the middle of the cake and it should come out clean. Allow the cake to cool before turning it out of the tin and on to a plate.