I’ve been participating in a group effort called Recipe Swap for several months now. The brainchild of Christianna with Burwell General Store, we are offered a vintage recipe to use for inspiration each month with the only requirement being that we ‘swap’ out at least three ingredients. For the first event I participated in I thought it was a requirement that we create something new by switching out exactly 3 ingredients and that was an exercise for sure but more limiting than the actual intent.
Since that date I’ve enjoyed seeing the plethora of ideas others come up with as well as stretching myself further and further; remembering that the recipe we are given is simply supposed to be inspiration and if ever there was a month I was glad to have that be the case…this was it.
Interest in the swap has grown enough that Christianna decided last month so split our group into two units, one that still posts on the first Sunday evening of the month and the group I’m in now that will be posting on the 2nd Wednesday. In the morning. Can you say it with me? WHOO HOO!! To say that this is a better schedule for yours truly is an understatement; I feel like I’ve won the lottery (OK; that might be an overstatement!).
When I first saw our assignments, at first glance I was crestfallen. The original group was given a pizza to use as inspiration (lucky, I wanted that!) and our group? Orange Snowflake Salad from the Log Cabin Inn in Quilcene, Washington. Without even looking I knew it was made with jello and my powers of intuition were right on. I would like to say this in my most big girl voice. YUCK! I hate jello and I remember those salads of yesteryear with cottage cheese and jello; never my favorites. But my frown turned upside down within seconds because in my sight line were a fabulous bowl of blood oranges and it only took moments before I was hatching a plan!
I bought the last of the blood oranges I’ll probably find this season at Whole Foods last week with the intent of making some blood orange curd. It seemed idyllic to marry the curd with a cake and bring in some cheese elements. This turned out to be a terrific dessert; it’s a dense and rich cake with a luscious filling and a rich but light frosting that picks up both the cheese and orange elements to tie everything together. When I say rich, I mean RICH…my neighbor and I figured that this cake could have been cut into 20-25 slices; allowing each person just a thin slice; it’s that rich and yes, that good!
A blogger I’ve gotten to know through Twitter recently moved to Denver from San Francisco and she mentioned the other day that she is afraid to bake here and is going to take a class in high altitude baking first. I say with all sincerity, ‘Good luck with that.’ High altitude rules change with each 1000′ and are compounded by our dry air. Not only do we have less atmospheric pressure which can see something rise too fast and then fall, but our ingredients dry out more than those used by what we call ‘flatlanders.’ I think a better class would be, ‘How to Deal with High Altitude Mishaps’ because I’ve been baking at altitude for 25 years, I know the science behind the need to make revisions and yet sometimes the smallest thing that others might do that would never be noticeable makes a big difference in our results.
Why do I mention this…oh boy. The last pound cake I made also had ricotta in it but it had leavening in it too…so it developed the perfect depression that I filled with fruit (I just CRINGE at the photo but go on, look and cringe with me). This one had no leavening and it rose like it had a little basketball in the middle of it. I’m guessing that the effort to beat 3 sticks of butter with the ricotta ‘might’ have incorporated too much air but still and resulted in a higher rise that decided to stay firm this time around. What was really funny? The dome then had a bit of a depression.
Did I panic? Heck no. That was no biggie, I just trimmed the top level flat to be even with the outside edge. But I was ill prepared to discover after splitting the cake in half that the middle of the top part was still, hmm, doughy? I wrapped the outer edge that was fully baked in foil, put the half layer back into the springform pan and baked it for an additional ten minutes. Where someone newer to some of these dilemmas might freak out, I think the real key to success at high altitude is that ability to punt; to take something that did not obey according to expectations and make it work. And maybe to get used to the fact that cookies will always have a bit more bas relief than folks at sea level are used to and I’m OK with that. Not a perfect environment but I will take all that I love about Colorado and not let these challenges wish I weren’t here!
This cake is no doubt over the top. Ricotta pound cake; rich and dense. Cut into two layers and filled with blood orange curd. Topped with more curd and then finished with a whipped cream, mascarpone cheese and blood orange frosting which is as rich as it sounds yet is actually the ‘light’ part that balances the heavier pound cake. Oh, oh wait…the coupe de grace? Candied blood orange slices. This is not your average Sunday night dessert but would be perfect for a party or a holiday gathering. I’ve given away as much of this cake as I could to two of my neighbors and still have a third of it left. Please come over; I need help! 🙂
Ricotta Pound Cake with Blood Orange Filling, Whipped Cream Mascarpone Topping and Candied Blood Orange Slices
For the Blood Orange Curd
- 12 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup blood orange juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 8 oz (16 Tbsp) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- Zest of 2 blood oranges
For the Cake
- 8 ozs ricotta cheese drained
- 3 sticks of butter, softened
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups of flour
For the Frosting
- 2 cups chilled whipping cream
- 1 8 oz container mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 cup blood orange cure
- 2 tsp blood orange rind
For the Candied Blood Oranges
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 blood orange
Prepare the Blood Orange Curd:
- Put egg yolks, sugar, blood orange juice and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly.
- Continue whisking until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon; about 10 minutes. Be patient; it will happen!
- Remove from heat and whisk the butter into the curd a few pieces at a time until they are melted and all of the butter is incorporated. Whisk the zest in. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
To Make the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Drain ricotta cheese in strainer.
- Grease the inside of a springform pan with butter.
- Cream together ricotta cheese, butter and vanilla.
- Gradually add the sugar and salt.
- Cream until fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time - mix well after each addition.
- Add flour one cup at a time - mix well after each addition.
- Pour batter into pan and level with spoon.
- Bake for 1 1/2 hours. When done, remove pan and let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes. run a knife around the outer edge of the pan and release the spring mechanism. Once cake cools; run a knife under the bottom and remove the springform bottom piece.
- Measure height of cake, place toothpicks at halfway point; using picks as a guide, cut the cake in half, cover and allow to cool completely.
- To Make the Whipped Frosting:
- Whip the cream and ricotta cheese together on medium speed until blended; gradually add the sugar and increase the speed to high and whip until firm peaks form. Add curd and orange rind and mix til blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To Make the Candied Blood Oranges
- Bring water and sugar to boil in a heavy large skillet, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Thinly slice blood orange (or a regular orange) and add to skillet, arranging the slices in a single layer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and barely simmer until the white pith of the orange becomes translucent, turning the slices occasionally, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the slices from the syrup and allow to cool on a wire rack; turning occasionally as they cool to keep them from sticking to the rack.
- I cut mine in half with a scissors while still barely warm and not yet firmed to crack stage.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Place one layer of the cake on a platter; top with 1 cup of the orange curd and spread evenly over the layer.
- Top with the 2nd layer and spread the remainder of the orange curd on top. (Optional. This worked because I was going to pipe the whipped topping on top of the curd; if making this cake without piping, then eliminate the curd on the top).
- Cover the entire cake with the whipped cream/mascarpone topping. Pipe rosettes around bottom edge and over top; garnish with candied blood orange slices.