One of my friends made this cake and it is called a Rich Almond and Ricotta Cake.
The recipe was a photocopy from a magazine of a couple of years ago. She has made the cake a few times and it has always been successful.
The cake is nice eaten on its own but just to remind us that it is winter, we enjoyed eating it like a dessert with warm stewed quinces and cream. With a cup of tea for morning or afternoon it is just as nice.
Because she decorated her cake with lavender from her garden we discussed how a lavender custard would also be an excellent accompaniment for this cake. I have included a recipe for this as well.
Pour a little of the egg mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan and whisk steadily. Keep on adding dribbles of the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and add the lavender flowers. Pour the custard into a jug; place a piece of baking paper directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to steep in the fridge overnight. Remove the flowers before serving.
On the same weekend another friend gave me a present. She crocheted this extraordinary tea cosy for me. If only I had this fabulous creation when we ate our cake!
The Rich Almond and Ricotta Cake recipe reminded me of a different almond cake I used to make – one of those flourless moist cakes that Claudia Roden made very popular and that has Sicilian flavours and ingredients. The almonds are toasted beforehand and then half of them are ground to a meal and the other half are coarsely ground before they are added to the cake mixture. This adds crunch as well as a more pronounced taste of almonds throughout the cake rather than just on top.
I am not saying that one cake is better than the other. They are both a variation on a theme. In Sicily the ricotta would be made from sheep’s milk – more delicate and sweeter.
Torta di Mandorle e Ricotta
Although it is called a torta (cake) it doubles up as being one of those moist desserts that I prefer to eat warm accompanied by some stewed winter or summer fruit or fresh strawberries. A dollop of cream does not go astray but this is not a common Italian custom.
Blanch the almonds and then toast in the oven (160 degrees) till golden. Beat the ricotta and sugar, add rind, the eggs one at a time then mix in the almonds. Mix everything well. Pour into a cake pan lined with baking paper and bake at 160 C for 45 minutes. Serve it warm.