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.
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
Tender and moist cake layers made with olive oil, ricotta and lemon, stacked with layers of strawberry basil compote and mascarpone frosting.
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 40 mins
FOR THE CAKE
- 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
FOR THE COMPOTE
- 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
FOR THE FROSTING
- 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
FOR THE CAKE
- 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.
FOR THE COMPOTE
- 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.
FOR THE FROSTING
- 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.