Revealed: The real queen of cakes, and it’s not a sponge

This cake is substantial in texture, but not too dense, slightly crumbly, but also gorgeously creamy

When making cakes, most of the time I opt for a sponge base. Sponges are light and delicate and the perfect vessel for fruity, creamy or chocolate icings; an easy all-rounder and familiar dessert to please a crowd. Very rarely do I find a type of cake that I lean towards more than a trusty sponge. In my eyes I had always seen the sponge cake as the queen of cakes. Until now. Enter ricotta cake.

Ricotta cheese is a beautiful ingredient, reminiscent of crispy Italian cannoli, or fresh tomato pasta. Ricotta is an exquisite carrier of flavour, and shines in both sweet and savoury dishes. When baked into a cake, however, it adds another dimension that is near impossible to achieve with a traditional sponge. The consistency of a ricotta cake is substantial in texture, but not too dense, slightly crumbly, but also gorgeously creamy.

This week’s recipe is for lemon ricotta cake. The lemon adds a sharp citrus punch and balances with the sweetness and creaminess harmoniously. Orange or lime would also work well in place of lemon, if that is what you have on hand.

There are ground almonds in the recipe to add another texture, and they have the added bonus of keeping the cake wonderfully moist. The eggs in this cake are whisked separately. This allows more air in the batter, which results in a lighter, fluffier bake. There is no baking powder or self-raising flour, as the whisked eggs also happen to be the raising agent.

Although the cake looks deceptively humble, it doesn’t really need anything to accompany it. The flavour and texture alone make this a perfectly acceptable sweet for any occasion. Here, however, I have added a raspberry ripple cream to round the dessert off beautifully. The raspberries are crushed slightly and swirled through a softly whipped and gently sweetened cream to make a dreamy ripple. Raspberry and lemon is a simple but effective combination; light, fresh and sharp, perfect for summer. The cream adds a softness and brings all the flavours together, but use crème fraîche if you prefer.

The ricotta means that this cake will keep for a little longer than a regular sponge. It is also perfect for freezing, only taking a half hour or so to defrost once it comes out of the freezer.

Recipe: Lemon ricotta cake with raspberry ripple cream