Almond Ricotta Cake: A Light, Creamy Italian Dessert
Almond lovers unite! This almond ricotta cake is so decadent, so flavorful, and truly delicious on another level. It’s inspired by a classic Italian ricotta torta, which is light and oh so creamy from rich, soft ricotta cheese, but with lots of almond and citrusy lemon flavor: it uses almond meal, almond extract, and has sliced almonds sprinkled on top before baking. Everyone who tries this dessert is obsessed, and for good reason. It has the most outrageous, creamy texture of any cake you’ll ever make!
What gives the almond cake it’s signature light, almost gooey texture? Two things! First, it’s gluten-free (hooray!). The body of the cake comes from almond meal, which on its own isn’t very light. However, it’s the creamy whipped ricotta that gives it an airy texture. Also, there’s whipped egg whites. They’re light as a cloud! When you fold whipped egg whites into cake batter, it introduces air, making every bite creamy!
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of texture from the crisped up edges, as well as the crunchy almonds on top. This is a dessert for people who enjoy balanced, rich flavors that won’t weigh you down. Also, it’s a great flourless dessert for Passover!
Ingredients For Almond Ricotta Cake
- Butter: Creamed with sugar and extract to provide a light and tender texutre.
- Granulated sugar: Used to sweeten the cake.
- Vanilla extract: Provides vanilla flavor.
- Almond extract: Provides additional almond flavor.
- Large eggs: Make sure to use room temperature eggs! The egg yolks are used as a binder, while the whites are whipped to form stiff peaks and gently folded into the batter.
- Whole milk ricotta cheese: super creamy, ricotta gives the cake it’s rich, gooey texture. Want to take this to the next level? Try making homemade ricotta — it’s got 4 ingredients and is so easy!!
- Lemon zest: The zest from 2 lemons is used to compliment the ricotta and almond flavor. It adds a bright, fresh, citrusy note to the dessert.
- Almond meal: Used instead of all-purpose flour to give the cake structure and body.
- Kosher salt: Just a pinch, to help season and balance the other ingredients.
- Sliced almonds: These compliment the almond meal and almond extract (don’t worry, it’s not too much!) and add crunch to the otherwise soft, gooey cake. Make sure to use sliced almonds, which are thinly sliced, and not slivered almonds.
- Confectioner’s sugar: A light dusting of powdered sugar once the cake cools slightly is the perfect sweet touch.
How To Make Almond Ricotta Cake
There’s a few steps, all of which require time (you have to let the ingredients whisk or beat for the recommended times to incorporate enough air into the cake!), but it’s mostly hands off. Trust us, your patience will be rewarded.
- Preheat an oven, then grease the cake pan!
- Cream together butter, sugar, and extracts until incredibly smooth.
- Add egg yolks.
- Beat in ricotta cheese and lemon zest, then add almond meal and a pinch of Kosher salt. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold onto the almond ricotta cake batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with lots of sliced almonds, then bake until golden brown and puffed up!
- Cool slightly, then dust with powdered sugar.
Tips For Best Results!
- Use room temperature ingredients! The ingredients will mix together better and the cake will rise more easily.
- Follow instructions with regards to timing! Allowing enough time for the cake batter to aerate and whip is what gives the almond ricotta cake its decadent texture!
- Grease the cake pan well or use a springform pan! If you’re using a springform pan to bake the cake, you’ll still want to make sure to grease the sides well to help it release as it cools. But we use a standard 9″ round cake pan for this and have had no issues getting the cake out. To remove from the pan, simply invert the cake onto a large plate, then invert it again back onto a cake stand or serving tray.
- Use whole milk ricotta! It adds to the thick, creamy texture of the cake batter!
- Sliced almonds, not slivered! For a traditional almond cake, you want to use paper thin sliced almonds.
- Allow the cake to cool slightly before slicing. If you wait to cut into the cake at least 15 minutes, you’re more likely to get clean slices.
Can this be made ahead? How long will almond ricotta cake keep?
Good luck not eating the entire thing on day 1! We lack all self control around this cake, but if you are hoping for leftovers, they will keep in a refrigerator (remember, it’s made with cheese!) for up to 4 days. The cake, however, is best enjoyed fresh — make it the same day you plan to eat it, though earlier in the day is fine. It can be enjoyed room temperature or slightly warm.
Can I use all-purpose flour? Other types of nuts or citrus?
There are absolutely almond cakes made with all-purpose flour, but this one is specifically written to be gluten-free (it’s a great Passover cake since it’s flourless!) and made with almond meal (or almond flour). We do not recommend substituting all-purpose. If you feel like experimenting, this cake uses a mix of both AP flour and almond meal. Yes, you can use other citrus zest (orange would work nicely), but almond, ricotta, and lemon are classic and traditional flavors that work well together. Try it as written first.
Again, while you can experiment with other types of nuts, this is specifically an almond cake. We have not tested it with other types of nuts.
Can this cake be frozen?
Anything can be frozen, but that doesn’t mean the texture will be the same when you go thaw or reheat it. This cake is extremely moist and creamy — it is best enjoyed fresh or within 4 days. If you freeze and thaw, it will likely alter the texture.
Cannot put into words just how truly delicious this Italian dessert is. While chocolate lovers may be running to make a flourless chocolate cake, this cake has stolen my heart and will forever more. It is truly perfection on a plate!!
If you make this Almond Ricotta Cake recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
More Italian desserts to try!
- Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti Cookies with Pecans
- Tiramisu Cream Puffs
- Cannoli Cream Parfaits
- Ricotta Fritters with Chocolate Sauce
Almond Ricotta Cake
- Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments
- 9" round cake pan or springform pan
- Parchment paper
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 4 large eggs room temperature, separated
- 10 oz whole milk ricotta about 1 ¼ cup
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from 2 large lemons
- 1 ½ cup almond meal
- pinch of Kosher salt
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- Confectioner's sugar for serving, about 2-3 Tbsp
- Nonstick baking spray or butter for greasing pan
- Prepare the cake pan. Preheat an oven to 325F. Line a 9 inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment, then spray generously with baking spray or butter.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Place ½ cup softened butter, 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 tsp almond extract into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat until very smooth, 5 minutes.
- Incorporate egg yolks. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides between additions.
- Whip the ricotta. Add the ricotta cheese and lemon zest, then continue beating on medium speed until very smooth, an additional 5 minutes. Pour in the almond meal then add a pinch fo Kosher salt. Mix until just combined. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, then wipe out the bowl of the stand mixer.
- Beat the egg whites. Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment, then beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the cake batter until just mixed in. Repeat with remaining egg whites.
- Bake the cake. Pour the cake batter into the greased cake pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top of the cake, then bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top and sides of the cake are firm and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool, then slice. Allow the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove the outer ring of the pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, then slice and serve warm or at room temperature.
- This cake will keep in a refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Can be made earlier in the day, but best served the same day it’s made.
- Please stick to recommended mixing times, as the air incorporated into the batter is what gives the cake its signature texture!