Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Strawberry Basil Compote

February 8, 2022

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Strawberry Basil Compote – layers of lemon olive oil ricotta cake, strawberry basil compote and mascarpone frosting.


A few years ago, when I was in New York for the Today Show, Ryan and I were able to join my dad and stepmom (who were also in town for work) at ABC Kitchen in West Village. My sister, who just moved away from New York, has raved about this restaurant for years now. I was so excited to finally go and see what the hype was all about.

ABC Kitchen is a farm-to-table, seasonal, American restaurant. The dishes all taste so fresh and flavorful. And while I loved everything we ordered, one dish in particular stood out to me: the housemade ricotta with strawberry compote and grilled bread. I couldn’t stop myself from going back for seconds and thirds. The flavors were both light and decadent. And there’s really nothing better than homemade ricotta. Have you tried it? It’s so creamy! There was also the most delicious strawberry compote with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs. I literally took one bite, closed my eyes and immediately envisioned these flavors in a cake.

If you remember, you know I’m one to throw any kind of cheese into my cakes, like my Gingerbread Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Frosting and my Honey Fig Goat Cheese Cake. I know it may sound weird, but cheese (well, certain kinds) and cake are made for each other!

As I downed my second and third slices of the ricotta strawberry toast, I started coming up with my cake.

I’ve never done an olive oil cake, so that seemed like the perfect place to start.

Recipe Development

At this point, when I develop a new recipe, I usually start with one of my other basic cake recipes as a base. My white and yellow cakes are great bases for a cake that I want to be tender and fluffy. My vanilla bean cake is a great base for something I want to be more dense. For this cake, I knew I needed some of that density to hold together all the ricotta I wanted to add, so I worked off my vanilla bean cake.

In the vanilla bean cake layers, I have a cup of buttermilk and a cup of yogurt. I replaced both of those with ricotta cheese. Yup, there’s two full cups of ricotta cheese in the cake layers! I then replaced the butter with oil and added lemon zest.

The texture of this cake is incredible. It’s slightly more dense, but not quite like a pound cake, and it’s super moist. There’s definitely not a strong olive oil taste, just a hint.

Strawberry Basil Compote

For the compote, I used fresh strawberries, a bit of sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, a little cornstarch and some finely chopped fresh basil. There’s just a ½ teaspoon of basil. You don’t need a lot to make an impact. Plus, too much will make the compote taste bitter.

You’ll want to make this compote a day or two ahead of when you decide to assemble your cake. It needs to cool and sit in the refrigerator for a bit to thicken. But remember, even though it thickens a little, it’s still not solid enough to hold your cake layers on it’s own. Don’t use too much of the compote between the layers and always pipe a rim around the edge of each cake layer as you stack so it prevents the compote from spilling out. Save the remaining compote to serve on the site of each slice of cake.


And finally, for the frosting, I used mascarpone so we could have a little more of the tart cheese flavor with the sweet compote. Instead of whipped mascarpone frosting like I’ve used in the past, this is more like a cream cheese frosting, but with mascarpone. It’s sweetened with some powdered sugar and given the slightest hint of lemon with some lemon extract.

As you dig into this cake, I hope you enjoy every single element of it on it’s own, as well as an ensemble of flavors. I think each element pairs so well with the others, but is equally decadent on it’s own.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!


Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with Strawberry Basil Compote

4.96 from 65 votes
Tender and moist cake layers made with olive oil, ricotta and lemon, stacked with layers of strawberry basil compote and mascarpone frosting.
Servings 18
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 40 mins



  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (12 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5.6 g) salt
  • 1 cup (218 g) olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (6 g) lemon zest about one large lemon
  • 2 cups (500 g) ricotta cheese, room temperature


  • 1 pound strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30.25 g) lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon (3 g) lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon (8.12 g)cornstarch, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon (.8 g) finely chopped basil


  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter. room temperature
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 5 cups (625 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (43.3 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) lemon extract



  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with spray, parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
  • Cream the olive oil and the sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for one minute. Stir in the lemon zest.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and the ricotta, starting and finishing with the flour. Combine until incorporated.
  • Evenly distribute the batter among the three cake pans (about 16 ounces of batter in each pan) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
  • Let cool in pans 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in your refrigerator overnight or freezer for longer.


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries are soft and the juices start to boil.
  • Remove from the heat and puree in a blender until smooth.
  • Return the puree to the saucepan and add the sifted cornstarch. Cook on low until mixture thickens. Cool completely before using in the cake.
  • I recommend making the compote a day or two before you assemble the cake. The compote can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for a month.


  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and mascarpone cheese and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.
  • With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until incorporated.
  • Keeping the mixer on low, add the cream, lemon extract and salt.
  • Turn the mixer to medium and beat the frosting for 3-5 minutes, or until it is light in color (almost white) and texture.
  • To remove air bubbles from the frosting, use a wooden spoon to stir and push out the air bubbles.


  • Place the first cake layer, top side up (crumb side up), on a cake board or cake plate. Using an offset icing spatula, spread about ½ cup to ¾ cup of the mascarpone frosting over the cake layer. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to make sure the frosting is level.
  • Pipe a rim of the mascarpone frosting around the edge of the cake.
  • Evenly spread about ¼ cup to ½ cup of the strawberry compote inside the frosting barrier. Be careful not to overfill the compote. If you add too much, your cake will slide around as you frost the sides. You won’t use all of it between the two layers. Reserve leftovers to serve a little with each slice of cake.
  • Repeat these last few steps with the second cake layer and filling. 
  • Place the final cake layer, top side down and apply a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake. Even though this cake has a semi-naked look to it, we still do a thin crumb coat. Freeze the cake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • After the crumb coat is set, finish frosting the cake with the remaining frosting to make a slightly thicker semi-naked cake look.
Author: Courtney Rich
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cake
Keyword: Lemon Olive Oil Cake, Mascarpone Frosting, olive oil cake, Ricotta Cake, Strawberry Compote

Join the Conversation

  1. I made the compote today, Monday, and will make the cake tomorrow, Tuesday. Is there anything I can substitute for Mascarone, like sorry cream or cream cheese…or more ricotta? I live in South Korea my local cheese selection is VERY minimal. I’ve found it online to order but I have to buy 3 packages for about 20 bucks. Any advice is MUCH appreciated!

    1. It says to have the ricotta at room temp here but it doesn’t say anything about room temp for that ingredient in your cookbook. Which is best? Thanks!

  2. Hi! I’d love to make this cake — can I bake the cake layers two days before serving?

    1. Yes! Just double wrap them in saran and freeze until you are ready to assemble.

      1. 5 stars
        Thanks so much! And do you think it’s okay to make the frosting 1-2 days in advance and store in an airtight container, or should I make it the day I assemble? Trying to prep as much as I can before the day of assembling!

  3. 5 stars
    I just have to say– all of your recipes turn out wonderfully for me, but this one took the cake 🙂 I made this for my mom and I’s birthday (three days apart). After the initial yummy tasting, the remainder ended up in the fridge due to the busyness of life. I pulled this gorgeousness out of the fridge almost a week later, and it was– dare I say– maybe even better than fresh! AND great-tasting cold! Who knew? (I’m definitely in agreement with you that for the most part, cakes need to be eaten room temp/warmish). Thank you for this recipe staple. I’m making this for my baby shower next!

    1. This makes me so happy because this is one of my favorites!

  4. 4 stars
    I made the blueberry delight cake last week that has the ricotta in it which was amazing, I was going to make this one next week but I have noticed grams are different throughout alot of your recipes in your book. You call for 2 cups of ricotta in this cake, same as the blueberry one but grams are different, is there a reason?

  5. Hi there, with the ricotta, how much liquid do you drain off? I made a trial cake yesterday and I had drained all off the liquid off my ricotta and ended up with a very dense batter. It did rise, but feel like I should have left the moisture in as I had to use my hand to push the batter around my pans. TIA! 🙂

    1. That’s a thicker, denser cake so totally normal that you had to spread the batter around. You do want to drain all the liquid out of the cheese.

  6. 5 stars
    I made this for my daughter’s wedding shower and it was amazing! Delicious and everyone loved it! Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad! Its my fav!

  7. Joan Branella says:

    5 stars
    My daughter who has been eating cakes baked by me, for all of her life declared this cake top three of every cake I’ve ever made. So, so good! I made it for the second time since Christmas Eve, so she could bring it to a party,?Thanks, Courtney !

  8. Kimberly H. says:

    5 stars
    Such an amazing cake! Extremely moist and tender cake! The flavors are just perfect!

    1. So happy to hear you love it! Thanks for taking the time to share a review!

  9. Do I use EVOL or light olive oil?

  10. Estefania says:

    Is the batter supposed to come out like a dough texture? uh-oh

    1. No not a dough texture but this one would be considered a heavier cake because of all the ricotta. Still very moist and tender.

  11. Liz Estrada says:

    4 stars
    Served this cake at a dinner party today and it was a hit! I was nervous about the olive oil because my sister doesn’t care for it so I used 1/2 EVOO and 1/2 light tasting OO. It was perfect I think. Just the faintest hint of it and she really liked it. The strawberry basil combo was unique and so delicious. I prefer a less sweet frosting so that’s the only thing I will change next time, because there will be a next time! Thanks!!

  12. 4 stars
    This cake, of course, was a hit. The strawberry basil compote was super delicious, but really don’t put that much in between the layers. The soft, mascarpone frosting is not sturdy enough to hold it together. I don’t typically use mascarpone, but mine was liquidy and I didn’t notice until after I already added it so I would suggest to drain it first. I also didn’t want to add more powdered sugar because the frosting was very sweet already. Personally, I would add some lemon extract to the cake to give more of a lemon flavor but I served it up with lemon ice cream and it was delicious! I would perhaps use a different frosting next time.

  13. Yaelan Choo says:

    I read your comment about draining the liquid from the ricotta. Do you measure the ricotta before or after draining the liquid?

  14. Hi Courtney,

    In the frosting instructions it calls for salt but a measurement isn’t listed in the ingredients. How much salt do you suggest adding to the frosting mixture?

    Thank you! Looking forward to trying this recipe!

    1. Just a pinch.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Hi Courtney! This recipe sounds AMAZING and I can’t wait to try it. Reading all other comments it appears the cake is denser and maybe a sturdier cake. Thoughts about whether it could be used in a stacked cake? Making a two tier for my daughter’s birthday and I know she would love this cake. I would use supports between the tiers as I do all my stacked cakes. Thank you!

    1. the layers would be great for a wedding cake but the mascarpone frosting isn’t as stable for stacking unfortunately. if you do a vanilla buttercream and only fill the layers with the mascarpone frosting, I think it would work well because the vanilla bc would help support each cake layer.

  16. 5 stars
    I made this cake as a way to use up a bunch of ricotta cheese that was about to expire, and it ended up being one of THE BEST cakes I’ve ever made. Such a tender cake crumb and the perfect amount of lemon flavor. Even without the addition of the strawberry basil compote, this cake was incredible. Can’t wait to make this one again!

  17. 5 stars
    This is truly my favorite cake. I have made many of your cakes with great success. When you said this was one of your favorites, I had to try it! I have now made it 4 times and every one in my family wants only this cake from now on! Thank you for all of your recipes. They bring me great joy!

  18. Did this use to have a homemade ricotta recipe with it? That was my favorite part!!! (Or am I thinking of a different cake?)

  19. 5 stars
    This recipe just called to me! I’m a home baker, so my family is use to getting yummy goodness! They were so delighted with this cake! I received many requests to make it again! Compote on the side was a great tip! Thank you 😊

  20. 5 stars
    Looks amazing. Wondering if I can use a squeeze of lemon rather than lemon extract in the frosting as I can’t seem to source lemon extract. Also does this freeze well? Is the frosting stable enough to be piped?

    1. Yes you can use a little lemon juice but no, this one doesn’t pipe well. It’s not stable enough.

      1. Esther Parpatt says:

        5 stars
        Okay so my layers are done and seem great (although I ran out of the full amount of ricotta so substituted the remaining with mascarpone which seems to have worked.) my question now is would raspberries or another fruit work for the compote? Where I am in the world I just realised (after making the layers) that strawberry is out of season and hard to find.

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