Blood Orange Ricotta Cake

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A few weeks ago, my mother gave me a bag of blood oranges that were sent to her in error by the grocery store. She ordered regular navel oranges but got blood oranges instead. She had no use for them, so she offered them to me. I tried to convince her to give them a try, but she said she liked her oranges orange, not red. Then she added, “If I wanted red fruit, I would’ve ordered apples.” No argument there, so I took the blush-colored oranges back to my house.

The blood oranges hung out in my refrigerator for a few days before I figured out what to do with them. These were special oranges, and I didn’t want to just peel and eat them. I wanted to do something special. I knew that blood oranges came from Sicily, so I decided on a cake with an Italian theme. A sweep of the fridge and pantry produced a carton of leftover ricotta and a long-neglected bottle of amaretto. I swapped out some ingredients for my favorite sour cream pound cake recipe and replaced them with the new flavors. The cake baked up well but looked a little plain. I jazzed it up with a glaze and some candied blood oranges. The cake was moist and flavorful without being overpowered by the tangy nature of the blood oranges.

I shared the cake with my mom, and she loved it. She said if the store had sent her a cake, she would’ve definitely given blood oranges a try.

Let me know when you make this recipe. Take a picture and hashtag it #QUEENCITYKITCHEN. I can’t wait to see what you post!

Blood Orange Ricotta Cake
Makes 8 servings

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1½ cups sugar
Zest and juice of 1 blood orange
2 tablespoons amaretto
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Candied blood oranges, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray the pan with baking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until combined.

Beat the butter, ricotta, and sugar in an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the orange juice, zest, amaretto, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk with orange juice until smooth. Add a few more drops of juice, if necessary, to make it pour easily. Pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cake and allow it to dry. Garnish with candied blood orange slices. Dust the oranges lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Candied Blood Oranges
Makes about 20 servings

3 blood oranges, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
2 cups water
1½ cups sugar

Combine water and sugar in a skillet and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the blood orange slices. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove the orange slices with a slotted spoon and transfer to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Let the orange slices dry for 24 hours, uncovered, until they are dry and slightly tacky.

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