Southern Italian Ricotta and Pear Cake Recipe

Ricotta and pear cake
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  • 75 mins
  • Prep: 45 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 1 cake (8 servings)
Ratings

This dessert is a little complicated to make but is definitely worth the effort. One taste and you'll understand why it's one of Southern Italy's favorites.  Pears, hazelnuts, and ricotta compliment each other very well in this delicious cake.

What You'll Need

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hazelnuts (raw, skin-on)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (plus more for finishing)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (granulated)
  • 1 pound Bartlett pears (ripe, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (granulated)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon pear liqueur
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta (well drained)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 sheets silver grade gelatin

How to Make It

To Make the Dacquoise Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Using a 9-inch cake pan as a guide, draw a circle in pencil on each piece of parchment paper, then turn over the parchment paper so that the writing can be seen through the paper.
  4. Lightly oil the parchment paper inside and slightly beyond the two circles with safflower oil or another neutral-tasting oil.
  1. Combine the hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and process until the nuts are the texture of medium-fine cornmeal, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  2. Beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they form soft peaks.
  3. With the mixer running, add the granulated sugar in a few additions, then increase the speed to high and beat until peaks form that is firm but not at all dry. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric mixer.)
  4. Use a large spatula to fold in the hazelnuts in three additions, until they are fully incorporated.
  5. Divide the dacquoise mixture equally between the two baking sheets, spreading it with a small offset spatula to fill the circles in an even layer all the way to the edges.
  6. Bake until the layers are dry to the touch and lightly golden all over, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.
  7. Transfer the layers on their parchment paper liners to a flat surface. The cakes will have expanded slightly: to ensure they will fit into the pan, trim all around the edges of the warm layers with a sharp paring knife, using a 9-inch cake pan as a guide.
  8. Slide the layers onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To Prepare the Filling

  1. Put the pears in a small nonstick skillet and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir over high heat until the fruit is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur. Transfer the fruit to a small strainer placed over a bowl and set aside to cool.

    To Make the Ricotta Mousse

    1. Press the ricotta through an ultrafine mesh strainer or splatter screen into a large bowl. Use a spatula to stir in the granulated sugar and vanilla until well mixed.
    2. In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of the cream using an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Use a large spatula to fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture; set aside.
    3. Put the gelatin into a small bowl of cool water to completely submerge it; let stand for 5 minutes to soften.
    4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream in a bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium heat until it simmers.
    5. Squeeze the water from the soaked gelatin and stir it into the hot cream until it dissolves completely.
    6. Stir 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture into the dissolved gelatin, then use a large spatula to fold this mixture back into the ricotta until well mixed.
    7. Gently fold the cooled drained pears into the ricotta mousse. (Discard the pear syrup or reserve for another use.)
    8. Cover the mousse and refrigerate for 2 hours.

    To Assemble the Cake

    1. Place a dacquoise round top side up in a 9-inch springform pan.
    2. Spread the ricotta-pear filling over the cake, leveling the top.
    3. Top with the second cake.
    4. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or up to a day. (The assembled cake may be frozen in the pan for up to 1 month. Transfer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight, then let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.)
    5. To serve, release the outer ring from the pan and transfer the cake to its base to a serving platter, or use a large spatula to transfer the cake directly to the platter.
    1. Dust the cake generously with confectioners’ sugar and cut into wedges with a sharp serrated knife.

    Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino (Ten Speed Press, 2013). [Buy on Amazon]

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    Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
    Calories 481
    Total Fat 20 g
    Saturated Fat 11 g
    Unsaturated Fat 6 g
    Cholesterol 59 mg
    Sodium 161 mg
    Carbohydrates 64 g
    Dietary Fiber 2 g
    Protein 15 g
    (The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)