Monday, February 11, 2013

Hazelnut Ricotta Pear Cake

There are times I wish I didn't like cakes, cookies and other desserts -- especially when I'm shopping for jeans or a bathing suit. There are times I wish I could say "no" and finish the meal with a piece of fruit -- basta.  But then there are times when a recipe like this comes along and I cave in to my predilection.  I mean come on, look at that luscious concoction. Could you resist a cake like that -- redolent of hazelnuts, and filled with creamy ricotta and poached pears? I didn't think so.

The recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook called "Dolci - Italy's Sweets" by Francine Segan . Francine explains that the recipe was originally created in the late 1990s by Salvatore De Riso, a tv cooking show host, pastry shop owner and cookbook author. It's a dessert that's frequently ordered in Naples and on the Amalfi coast, she says. (How did I miss this one on my trips there?)

 I baked it recently for my Italian chit-chat group and it wasn't as hard to make as it might seem. Although there are multiple steps in the preparation, the cake itself can be made ahead of time and frozen. The day before the group meeting, I whipped up the filling, assembled the cake and let it sit in the refrigerator to firm up. Francine says it keeps beautifully in the refrigerator for up to five days, and freezes well too. Now can you see why I had to give in?

Ricotta Pear Cake

For the cake:

  • 2 cups whole hazelnuts, finely ground

  • 6 tablespoons 00 flour

  • 6 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted

  • For the pears:

  • 2 (at least 6 ounces each) Bartlett or William pears, peeled, cored, and diced or thinly sliced

  • ½  cup sugar

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pear brandy

  •  For the syrup:

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons pear brandy

  • For the filling:

  • 17 ounces ricotta cheese

  • ¾  cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • ¾  cup heavy cream

  • Procedures

    1. 1

      Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour two 9 ½ -inch springform pans.

    2. 2

      Grind the hazelnuts and flour in a mini food processor until very fine.

    3. 3

      In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and sugar and beat on high speed for 15 minutes, until the mixture has quadrupled in volume. Gently fold in the hazelnuts and flour with a spatula until just combined. Then add in the butter. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until firm to the touch. Set aside.

    4. 4

      Make the pears: In a small saucepan combine the pears, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch and simmer over medium-low heat until the pears are soft. Remove from the heat, stir in the brandy, and let cool to room temperature. Set aside.

    5. 5

      Make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Stir in brandy.

    6. 6

      Make the filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, sugar, and vanilla for at least 5 minutes, until creamy.

    7. 7

      Meanwhile, beat the cream until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture. Fold in the cooled pear mixture. (I drained some of the liquid from the pears before folding it into the ricotta mixture since I was afraid it might make the ricotta too runny.)

    8. 8

      Assemble the dessert: Remove one of the cake layers from the pan and place on a serving platter large enough to hold the outer ring of the springform pan. Brush the cake with one-half of the syrup to moisten it. Pile the filling in the center of the cake and put the springform ring back over the cake.

    9. 9

      Gently spread the filling to the edges and then top with the second layer of cake. Brush the remaining syrup over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer until set, about 2 hours. Remove the springform ring and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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  1. Magnificent, fresh and divine! A wonderful cake.



  2. Che aromi e che profumi! Complimenti di cuore è un dolce a dir poco squisito!! Un abbraccio e felice lunedì! :)

  3. cara Linda questo dolce è una vera tentazione ! Buona settimana, un abbraccio !

  4. E' fantastica la tua torta , irresistibile, bellissime le foto.
    Buona settimana Daniela.

  5. A mighty fine old world cake...kind they don't teach you at culinary school. This is dessert!

  6. I actually don't have much of a sweet tooth. I'm fine with a piece of fruit for dessert. But *this* is just too good to pass up! The flavors sounds incredible and I really love that beautiful pattern on top of the cake. A real work of art...

  7. I actually don't have much of a sweet tooth. I'm fine with a piece of fruit for dessert. But *this* is just too good to pass up! The flavors sounds incredible and I really love that beautiful pattern on top of the cake. A real work of art...

  8. I'm not a huge sweet eater unless it is "worth the calories." Oh my is this ever!

  9. I don't bake much when when I do this is the kind of cake for me!I love the texture ground hazelnuts give in a cake and with the ricotta and pears, wow! and to top it off it looks beautiful, lucky girls in your chit chat group!
    p.s. would you believe, I'm not kidding, I made a cake yesterday with ground hazelnuts! lol

  10. What a beautiful cake! You did a perfect job assembling it, and your styling is beautiful. Kudos to you, Linda! It seems like a great treat for the chit chat donne. And Ms. Segan's book is indeed wonderful. I have, as they say, devoured it.

  11. What a lovely cake for February, Linda. Definitely a keeper. I have several books on Italian desserts but that one is new to me. Also ~ I have that very same cake stand. My mamma gave it to me years ago! Beautiful post.

  12. This is absolutely GORGEOUS!
    I would buy this at a patisserie shop if I saw it in the has my name all over it.
    I guess I will have to buy DOLCI now........this cookbook addiction is getting out of control!

  13. This cake looks worth every calorie, Linda! I love a sweet ricotta filling in any confection, and hazelnuts are among my favorite nuts. I will definitely keep this recipe on a Pinterest board.

    My son-in-law and I were discussing the fact last night that the Denver area of Colorado is sorely missing good bakeries, and that there is literally one Sicilian style Pasticcerie in a hundred mile radius! We entertained the thought that we could make a fortune selling cannolis and casatas not sure if they would taste the same with high altitude preparation.

  14. I'm not a cake eater (generally) but this one has me salivating!

  15. Such an elegant cake. I would serve this at a nice dinner party.

  16. I do love a great cake, and I truly believe that the Italians have got the edge on them. I can imagine how delicious this cake is with that creamy ricotta filling! I am saving this for sure. PS: What do you do in your Italian 'chit-chat' group? How interesting Linda!

  17. I've already printed the recipe! This looks delightful.

  18. Gorgeous as usual, and I can almost taste it from the photo. And those exquisite serving utensils - are they Murano glass?

  19. Faith - Yes, those are Murano glass utensils -- bought in Kingston, NJ at theTuscan Hills store.

  20. I'm pretty far behind in catching up on blogs. Wow, this is one beautiful post. The photos are foodie magazine quality. I love hazelnuts and I know this cake would be a true achievement for me, if I could replicate it. Gorgeous.

  21. I must have done something wrong (?) When I baked the cake part, it didn't rise at all. I ended up with two very thin (about a quarter inch) cakes. What did I do wrong? Funny the recipe doesn't call for anything to make it rise.

  22. Anonymous - Not sure what happened. Were the eggs at room temperature? Did you beat them enough? Was your oven preheated to the right temperature? Please try again. I had no problem with it rising. I'm sorry you did.