With the first wave of sunshine in the Netherlands and all the spring vibes going on I feel wonderfully energized and full of ideas that I want to share. This recipe captures this vibe with its lemony fruitiness, light and creamy ricotta filling and nutty walnut crust.
Last month I had the honour to bake the cake for the first birthday of my lovely Hungarian friend’s beautiful baby boy. I always love challenges, and baby-safe cakes are good ones. The little ones do not eat a lot of things yet, and so you would have to work with a smaller range of ingredients then you are normally used to such as refined sugar, eggs or honey. Additionally, I was trying to make this cake as healthy and delicious as possible for all cakelovers big and small. I sweetened it with agave syrup, and filled it with delicious ripe pears and fresh zesty lemon. The cake did not contain gluten, eggs or refined sugar but it was so delicious, that nobody would know it unless you tell them.
I had really good inspiration for this creation, Tarta di ricotta e pere is an Italian layer cake, with two airy hazelnut sponge cakes embracing an enormous pile of creamy, lemony ricotta and pear filling. I found this recipe through an Italian colleague who I will be forever grateful to for showing me this deliciousness. I loved the original but I needed some modification as sponge cake is naturally based on the airiness of the whipped egg whites, which I wanted to leave out to make it more baby-friendly. In the end I decided to turn it into a cheesecake, replacing the sponge with a nutty crust of egg-free cookie base made of homemade glutenfree cookies.
- 100+50 gram butter on room temperature
- 75 gram agave syrup (3 tablespoon)
- 200 gram flour (I used a gluten-free mix)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 50 gram walnut
- 1 ripe pear
- 25+75 gram agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon corn-starch
- 125 millilitre whipping cream
- 3 gelatine leaves
- 250 gram ricotta
For the crust mix the flour with the baking powder and add 100 gram of the butter and the agave syrup and mix to combine. Roll it into a thick sausage, wrap in cling foil and chill in the fridge for one hour. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. With a sharp knife slice the sausage of chilled dough into 1/2 cm thick slices and bake it for 10 minutes until slightly brown.(Keep the oven on 180 degrees for the next step!)
Grate the zest of the lemon and set it aside, then squeeze the juice of the lemon in a separate bowl and set it aside as well. Peel the pear, remove the seeds and dice it. Arrange slices in a small oven proof dish, sprinkle with one third of the agave syrup and 2 tablespoons of the lemonjuice and bake it for 10 minutes. Sprinkle starch over it and mix it with a spoon. Some juice should start gathering up, the starch will thicken it up a bit. Bake for 10 more minutes until the pear is soft, almost melting. The baking time will depend a lot on the ripeness of your pear, if it would start browning before it`s ready you can cover it with aluminium foil. Remove from oven and let it cool down to room temperature.
When the cookies cooled to room temperature tip them into a blender with butter and walnuts and blitz it to a coarse crumbly texture. Transfer the crumbs to a 18 cm cake form and push it down to create an even layer of crust on the bottom and 2-3 cm high on the edges. Let it chill in the fridge until the cream is ready.
For the filling soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes, squeeze water out of them and dissolve in 2-3 tablespoon hot water (slowly start heating it in small pan, until it dissolves but make sure you don`t bring it to a boil). Whip the cream with an electric mixer. Mash 1 tablespoon lemon zest in the ricotta then add agave and gelatine, mix them to combine and gently fold in the whipped cream and the cooled pear.
Fill the prepared crust with the ricotta filling until it reaches the edge of the crust. If you have more than you need for the cake fill the rest in glasses, it will make a lovely dessert. Cover cake with cingfoil and put it into the fridge.
Let it chill overnight or at least for 3 hours before serving.