Rich and flavorful, this Italian lemon ricotta cake is moist and delicious. Made with ricotta cheese and lemon. This simple Italian dessert is a classic and perfect for Mother’s Day, Easter or any celebration!
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This traditional Italian lemon ricotta cake recipe will become a new favorite! It’s a rich and moist dessert with the best lemon flavor.
It’s the perfect ending to a hearty meal of Italian meatballs but you could even serve it as an absolutely delicious breakfast treat. It’s similar to Italian lemon cake but ricotta cheese adds moisture and a taste similar to Italian cheesecake!
Lemon ricotta cake has an amazing texture and flavor! It’s an easy straightforward traditional Italian cake recipe to make at home and it is the perfect treat!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Easy to make: Just 20 minutes and pantry staples are all you need to make this cake!
- Flavorful: Lemon zest adds the best light flavor! It’s perfect for spring or summer.
- Moist and fluffy: Ricotta cheese adds moisture to this Italian cake!
- Versatile serving options: Serve it after dinner for light dessert, enjoy with tea for an afternoon snack or serve at breakfast with some fruit.
What is Lemon Ricotta Cake?
Lemon ricotta cake is a classic Italian dessert that originated in Sicily but different regional variations can be found throughout Italy in bakeries and cafes. It can be served traditionally after a meal or served at breakfast with fruit.
Because it is made with ricotta cheese it is a denser cake, since most Italian cakes are denser, but this cake is perfectly moist making it one of our favorite cakes to date!
Lemon dessert recipes are perfect for spring and summer just like this lemon crostata!
- Flour: Cake flour or pastry flour is best for this recipe as it helps achieve the light and delicate ricotta cake results.
- Baking powder: Needed for lift and rise.
- Salt: Just a pinch, you may not need this if you use salted butter.
- Eggs: You will need two eggs room temperature to help bind the cake together.
- Egg yolk: An extra egg yolk adds moisture.
- Granulated sugar: Granulated white sugar is best as it dissolves quickly.
- Ricotta cheese: Any type from the grocery store will work. Whole milk ricotta cheese is preferred.
- Butter: Unsalted butter that has been melted and cooled.
- Lemon zest: You will need one or two lemons depending on how much lemon you like! You can also leave this out if you like plain ricotta cake.
- Extract: Pure vanilla extract or lemon extract if you like it extra lemon-y!
- Milk: 2% or whole milk for a rich taste.
- Powdered sugar: For dusting and garnish.
How to Make Cake Flour
For every cup of all purpose flour, remove two tablespoons and replace with two tablespoons of corn starch. Be sure to sift the flour and cornstarch together a couple of times, this way it is sure to be properly combined and lump free. Cake flour in cakes will give you a very tender texture and fine crumb, it will also help the cake to rise.
How to Make Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
Easy lemon ricotta cake is simple to make, just follow these steps to ensure it turns out perfect!
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt to remove any lumps.
In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl on medium speed. Beat at least 2 minutes until the mixture is light and airy. Using a mixer is the best way to incorporate air into the batter.
Add the melted butter and vanilla then beat again to combine. Beat in the ricotta until it has a whipped appearance. Lastly add the zest and milk, beat to combine.
Add your reserved dry ingredients and combine.
Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Let cool in the pan then move to a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy! A bundt pan similar to mine is this Bundt pan.
- Ricotta: If your ricotta is watery, drain it first. If it’s watery it will add too much moisture and change the texture of the cake.
- Room temperature ingredients: Room temperature ingredients will incorporate better leading to better cake results.
- Zest: It’s easier to zest your lemons whole and be careful not to zest down to the white part of the lemon. This is the pith of the lemon and it is bitter.
- Mix well: Be sure to beat the eggs, sugar and ricotta mixture really well. This ensures your cake will not be eggy or spongy.
- Cool completely: Lemon ricotta cake is delicate, cool completely before attempting to remove from the pan.
Variations and Substitutions
- Flavoring: Swap the vanilla extract for almond extract or add a tablespoon of liqueur like Amaretto or Frangelico or even Limoncello.
- Sugar crust: Sprinkle a coarse sugar on top before baking for a sweet crunch.
- Lemon glaze: Instead of powdered sugar add a glaze like I do in this lemon yogurt cake.
- Blueberry: Add some blueberries to the lemon ricotta cake! Toss them with some flour before adding to the cake so they don’t sink. You may like this easy blueberry cake with a vanilla glaze, too!
- Cake flour: It’s easy to make your own cake flour using all-purpose flour. Combine 14 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to equal 1 cup of cake flour.
- Type of pan: Instead of baking it in a bundt pan, make it in a springform pan.
Since this cake includes ricotta cheese, it should be stored in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container for 5-7 days and bring to room temperature before serving or serve chilled!
What type of ricotta should I use?
Full fat whole milk ricotta is preferred and will provide the best texture. You can try part skim ricotta but the results will not be as rich and flavorful. If you use part skim ricotta just ensure that your ricotta, butter and sugar mixture are mixed really well before adding other ingredients.
How should I serve Italian lemon ricotta cake?
The best way to serve this ricotta cake with lemon is to dust it with powdered sugar! You could also top it with some whipped cream and fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries or raspberries).
Can I make this lemon ricotta cake into a layered cake?
Yes, instead of making a lemon ricotta bundt cake, prepare batter as directed and divide the batter into two round cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper and greased.
Can I freeze ricotta cake?
Yes! Cool completely then wrap in plastic wrap, then foil to prevent freezer burn. Store it in an airtight container or freezer bag for 2-3 months. Thaw and enjoy!
More Lemon Recipes
Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
- 2⅓ cups + 1 tablespoon cake/pastry flour (300 grams total)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 pinch salt*
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 13¼ ounces ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup +1 tablespoon butter (melted and cooled) (180 grams total)
- 1-2 zest of whole lemon(s) 1-2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
- 3 tablespoons milk 2% or whole milk (room temperature)
For room temperature remove the ingredients 45-60 minutes from the fridge before using.
*If you use unsalted butter then add ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and flour or spray a 9½-10 inch bundt pan (24cm).
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beaters or a large bowl with beaters beat together the eggs, yolk and sugar for 2 minutes, add the melted butter and vanilla, beat to combine. Beat in the ricotta, add the zest and milk, beat to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients and combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for approximately 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan then move to a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy!
The cake is very tasty and not overly sweet. I didn’t have cake flour so I used regular flower plus cornstarch per the notes. The cake baked for 55 minutes and it was definitely done, but when I pulled it out it collapsed on itself. Still delicious, but dense – not sure if that’s a flour issue or something else, but I’d make it again.
Hi Patti, thanks glad you like it. It’s an Italian cake and they are on the dense side. Here are a few reasons the cake might have collapsed the oven isn’t heating at the correct temperature, over mixing the batter, opening the door before 30 minutes has passed. Let me know. Take care.
I read somewhere that you shouldn’t substitute regular flour for cake flour. Something about the lower protein count in cake flour. ??
Not really sure how that might matter???
Hi Phyllis, you can substitute but the cake will be softer and more tender with cake flour. So whenever possible when making a cake it’s always a good idea to use cake flour or even make your own. 🙂
Penny Lucido says
Can you make this with gluten free flour? If so, how would you make it more like cake flour?
Hi Penny, I can’t really say because I have never baked with gluten free flour. Sorry.
Tammy Schinner says
Hi, looking foward to trying the recipe. how much lemon zest should be added?
Hi Tammy, thanks I hope you like it. About 1-2 tablespoons.Take Care.
I noticed an asterisk by the salt. But can’t find in the notes. Did I miss?? This cake looks amazing. Thanks
Hi Candace, I added it thanks, if you use unsalted butter then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. 🙂
Vicki Cohen says
Hello Rosemary. Which bundt pan do you use. Mine has ridges but I would like to use a smooth sided one like yours. most bundt pans have designs & ridges. Thank you.
Hi Vicki I use a bundt pan that I purchased here in Italy. I included a link to one that is similar in the “How to make”. Hope that helps. Take care.
Stephanie Wasserman says
How long do I bake in 8” pans and springform pan?
Hi Stephanie, I would say 35-40 minutes. Hope you enjoy it. Take care!
I measured my ingredients by weight and used the cake flour. I only had 9oz of ricotta left from making manicotti, so I had to substitute 4.25oz of yogurt. I excluded the milk since the yogurt is runnier than the ricotta, and I added a tablespoon of lemon juice with the zest just because. It came out beautifully light and moist. The best recipes are the forgiving ones, and this one absolutely qualifies. I have permanently saved it to my go-to recipes.
Hi Alele, thanks so much, so glad you liked it, and thanks for letting me know about the substitutions. Take care!
Dawn R Bowe says
Could I use real lemon juice instead of extract? I have a lemon tree and am always looking for recipes that I can use the juice and zest.
Hi Dawn, sure you could substitute the lemon juice for the milk, although maybe use 1-2 tablespoons of juice and the remainder milk, hope you enjoy it.
This looks delicious. Would like to make it for Easter Sunday which will be a real treat after Lent fasting. Would I be able to use gluten free flour instead? Straight swap or do I still need to do the 2 tbsp flour/corn starch trick?
Hi Renee, thanks, I have never baked with gluten free flour, although a lot of readers have success with it. I would probably just use it straight as is. Let me know if you try it. Take care!
Would love to know if the GF version worked out!
Erlinda Muriel says
Thank you for all your lemon recipes!!
I love lemon in everything I can use it.
I will order your cookbooks and enjoy!!
Blessings to you my dear,
Hi Erlinda, thanks so much, we love lemon desserts a lot, thank goodness Italians use it a lot too! Take care and have a great weekend!