I’ve made the base of this light Italian breakfast cake many times. In the winter I top it with candied meyer lemon, in spring with fresh strawberries and in the summer with blackberries, as I did here. The rich, lightly savory ricotta is a welcoming pair for sweet seasonal fruits and fresh cream.
For the Berries & Sauce
2 cartons of blackberries
2 cups of medium- to full-bodied red wine
1 1/2 cups of sugar (1 cup for macerating and 1/2 cup to help thicken the caramel)
couple sprigs of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
For the Cake
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 2 large lemons (Meyer if you can get them)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated, whites beaten until stiff peaks form
1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese (If you can get your hands on fresh ricotta, you will taste the difference.)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
powdered sugar for dusting
dash of salt
For the Berries & Sauce
To macerate the berries, combine all the ingredients in a bowl (save for 1/2 cup of sugar), toss together with your hands to keep the delicate berries intact, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Once macerated, carefully remove the blackberries with a spoon or your fingers, taking care to not smash them. Set aside.
Strain the wine liquid into a saucepan, making sure to remove all the peppercorns.
Add the thyme back into the pot with the 1/2 cup of sugar you set aside. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring in the extra sugar until it dissolves. Then turn down the heat so the mixture is just simmering.
Allow to simmer and thicken for 30 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy — it should begin to stick to the back of a metal spoon. Let cool.
For the Ricotta Cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter an 8-inch springform pan.
Using a wooden spoon or a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, combine and mix the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and combine until well integrated. Then fold in the egg whites.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides and top of the cake are beginning to turn golden brown. Unmold and let cool.
Use a strainer to dust the cake with powdered sugar. Then arrange the blackberries on top of the cake. (I like to pile them in the center, leaving a rim of the powdered sugar showing.)
Serve with the red wine sauce so guests can pour as much as they’d like.