This simple Ricotta Pear Cake is light, moist, and scented with warm rosemary and orange. It’s loaded with fresh seasonal pears and is perfect for a cozy fall evening at home.
Welcome to November, or pie baking month as it’s known in my family. I’ve said it time and time again, we are pie people far more than we are cake people. Yet, while you’ll probably never find a multi-tiered chocolate cake decorated with homemade buttercream on my blog, you will find many iterations of simple, fruit-studded cakes that are better suited for brunches than birthday parties.
This cake is inspired by one Ina Garten recently posted on her Instagram to promote her new cook book. Her ricotta cake was lightly scented with vanilla and lemon zest, then topped with plenty of ripe, juicy figs that caramelized in the oven. It looked heavenly, and if Ina says it’s a good cake, you know it’s a damn good cake. I had all these lovely pears that I grabbed at our fall farmer’s market last week, and I wanted to make them work, so I used them in place of the figs.
I took Ina’s cake base and swapped out the lemon for orange and a bit of rosemary instead. The rosemary doesn’t make this cake taste savory at all, but it adds an element of interest that compliments the other flavors beautifully. It’s subtle, barely detectable, but still makes its presence known. Together with the orange, it evokes a warm, cozy feeling that makes this cake taste like the holidays. And for the record, I can’t believe we’re actually gearing up for said holidays already. 🤯
The batter is heavy on eggs and butter, but light on flour, so the ricotta steps in to give it the structure that the flour would otherwise provide. The ricotta also gives it a fluffy, dream-like texture. Like all my favorite cakes, this one manages to be dense and a bit chewy, yet light and moist at the same time. It’s not heavy by any means, but has a really satisfying bite.
Ina has a habit of calling for extra large eggs in her recipes, but I always have large eggs on hand and I’m guessing you probably do too. I swapped out her 3 XL eggs for 3 large eggs plus one extra yolk, and I was not at all disappointed with the results.
My pears happened to be quite large, so I only needed to use two, but you might want to use three if yours are a bit smaller. Luckily this is a forgiving recipe that won’t really matter if you have a little more or less fruit. I thinly sliced the pears and took a great deal of time to artfully arrange them in the batter, only to have them sink down and practically disappear after baking. You might have more luck, but you’re probably better off just plopping the pears on top and calling it a day. This is a rustic cake – don’t worry so much about the presentation.
This recipe also calls for 2 tablespoons of sour cream, which adds a bit of tang and lightness to the finished cake. But oddly, Ina calls for serving it with a dollop of creme fraiche, which is a lot like sour cream, but a little bit different. I’m sure the creme fraiche is delicious, but why go out and buy it when you already have an opened container of sour cream in the house? We served it with sour cream, and we loved everything about it.
Is this a show-stopping, knock-your-socks-off, special occasion cake? No. It is a humble, every-day, not-too-sweet, you-can-totally-eat-it-for-breakfast kind of cake, which happens to be my favorite. Chaser and I managed to polish it off in 2 days by ourselves, which isn’t really something to be proud of, but somehow I still am.
If your family consists of more cake people than pie people, consider baking up this ricotta pear cake for Thanksgiving this year. After all the pomp and circumstance of the turkey and its fixings, this might be just the simple little sweet you need to end the night right.
One Year Ago: Baked Sweet Potato + Chorizo Hash with Eggs
Two Years Ago: Blue Cheese Tartines with Apples + Arugula / Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions, Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese and Lime
Three Years Ago: How to Make Pie Crust from Scratch / Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
Four Years Ago: All of the Food in New Orleans
Five Years Ago: Fairytale Eggplant Pasta
This simple Ricotta Pear Cake is light, moist, and scented with warm rosemary and orange. It’s loaded with fresh seasonal pears and is perfect for a cozy fall evening at home. Adapted from Ina Garten.
- 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons sour cream, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 medium-large pears or 3 smaller pears, halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Demerara or raw sugar
- Crème fraîche, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the inside of a 9-inch round pan (I used a springform), then line with parchment paper. The butter will help the paper adhere.
Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, then add the eggs one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate the first before adding in the next.
Scrape down the bowl again, then add the ricotta, sour cream, vanilla, orange zest, rosemary and salt, then mix together. The mixture will be lumpy from the ricotta – this is ok!
Add the flour and baking powder, then mix on low speed until just combined. Transfer batter to the pan, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the pear slices on top in a pretty pattern, then sprinkle all over with Demerara sugar. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45-55 minutes, or until he top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without raw batter.
Let cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then use the parchment to lift the cake out and transfer to a serving platter. Hold the cake with one hand while you pull the parchment off of the bottom. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold with a dollop of sour cream. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.
Keywords: thanksgiving, fall, pears, baking, ricotta, cake, fruit, orange, rosemary, easy, recipe