Friday Coffee Cake: Ricotta Pound Cake, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on December 12, 2009


For inspiration for today’s coffee cake, I return to my new favorite dessert cookbook, Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. This pound cake is truly an Italian take on the English/American pound cake. Instead of using cream cheese to give it a rich taste and texture, this recipe uses ricotta cheese. The ricotta gives this cake a moist texture and a less dense crumb than you get with pound cakes using cream cheese.

The recipe also includes the use of a vanilla bean in addition to vanilla extract. I’ve made the vanilla bean optional, because I realise that most people probably don’t have vanilla beans lying around in their pantries. But if you do have a vanilla bean–use it. Oddly enough, vanilla beans were things that my mom always had in her spice cupboard–so I grew up using those instead of vanilla extract. I still have vivid memories of scraping out the vanilla seeds over my chocolate chip cookie batter, trying to figure out how many would approximate a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I still don’t really know–I just do it by taste.

I made two of these cakes for today. One went to my regular coffee cake crowd and one went with me to a lovely get-to-know-you party that my pal Viv, of Seattle Bon Vivant, held for photographer Penny de los Santos last night. Several lucky food types, including yours truly, got a chance to take a food photography workshop with Penny today. The event was held at the fabulous Spring Hill restaurant. Spring Hill not only hosted the event, but they cooked several dishes for us to practice our food photography skills. And boy, did they pulled out the stops. Foie gras, oysters, seared duck breast, house-made ravioli, luscious salads–I wanted to eat every single thing we were photographing. (We actually did get to eat things after we photographed them–delish!) I’ll post some of my photos from the workshop in a later post, but I wanted to thank Viv, Penny, and Spring Hill for such a wonderful event. I will add that if you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Penny, do it! She is a wonderful and inspiring teacher and photographer.


Anyway, at Viv’s meet-and-greet last night, we got a chance to meet each other before today’s workshop. And, of course, everyone brought lovely food. Heck, we’re talking food-lovers–how could it not be amazing? I brought this cake. You really can’t go wrong with pound cake–it is a simple and lovely dessert. Make it ricotta pound cake and you’re got yourself a hit. Seriously. By the end of the evening, it was gone (except for one little piece I save for my husband). I was so happy. The comment everyone kept making was, “Really? It’s gluten-free? Wow, that’s amazing!” and “Can I have the recipe?” So, to everyone in the coffee cake crowd, and to my pals at Penny’s workshop: here is the recipe!

This recipe couldn’t be easier. But, then again, most pound cakes are supremely easy to make. There aren’t that many ingredients, you use a loaf pan or bundt pan to bake it, and it comes out perfectly every time! And, again, it is great for breakfast, or for afternoon tea with pals. I also like it as a simple and elegant dessert. Yum.

Ricotta Pound Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Dolce Italiano

Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in fridge):
1 1/4 C. brown rice flour
1 1/4 C. white rice flour
1 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4-1/2 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the cake)

Special Equipment Needed
-a stand mixer is always nice, but a hand mixer will do
-9×5 loaf pan or a 10 C bundt pan

Ingredients
1 1/2 C Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (the big grain salt)
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 C whole milk ricotta
3 large or extra large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 vanilla bean
extra butter and tapioca flour for pan

Preheat oven to 350
-butter and flour loaf or bundt pan
-in a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside
-in bowl of mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy
-add ricotta, continue to beat
-add sugar, continue to beat
-add vanilla extract
-split vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape out the seeds into the mixture, beat (discard outer shell of bean)
-add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition
-beat this a little longer, so it’s light and fluffy
-with mixer on low, beat in dry ingredients
-mix until just combined, do not overmix

-pour batter into prepared pan
-thump pan on counter to release any trapped air bubbles

-bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hr–until a tester comes out clean
-cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Enjoy!
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