I’m hoping this Lemon Ricotta Crumb Cake sticks out from the myriad of back to school snacks, pumpkin and apple treats that are so popular this time of year.
Is there a season for lemons? I get the taste for citrus in the winter months…hmmm…and I guess in the spring and definitely in the summer too. Probably not in the fall so much? Nah…Who am I kidding? I’d never turn down a lemon treat (especially a good lemon square :) I suppose I’m always in the mood for lemons.
I mean, is there anything better than a spoonful of buttery lemon curd? How about swirling it up with some whipped cream and topping some gingerbread pancakes with it? Or, how about Lemon Souffle Pudding Cakes or Lemon Lime Cream Slab Pie? (Answer key: no, yes, yes, YES!)
This Lemon Ricotta Crumb Cake was inspired by some Lemony Sunshine Cupcakes that I made from @mixandmeasure. The cupcakes had a shortbread cookie crumb topping that was just delicious. After eating those cupcakes, I wanted to make a lemon crumb cake. I had already been thinking about posting something with lemon and ricotta. I thought about scones or pancakes, but settled on this crumb cake.
I’ve been testing this cake throughout the summer. I went through three or four trials. First I needed to get the cake texture just right. I played around with different ratios of butter and ricotta. I know I’m being picky when the feedback on every combination came back great. So, I picked my favorite, and moved on to figuring out the crumb topping.
I knew I wanted a light crumb, in other words, not that thick yummy kind that you get on top of a New York crumb cake or the streusel kind that has oats and nuts in it. I really wanted a crumb that is like the lemon cream crumb cakes you get in some restaurants. Then I found out that the way you achieve that crumb is not to cook it. Eating uncooked flour doesn’t fly as an option for me so I moved on.
I tried some lighter options that simply turned out too crispy for me. And then, I remembered those lemon cupcakes I made with the shortbread crumb topping! (Seriously? They were my inspiration to begin with. How could I forget?) Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! You can’t beat the taste of a buttery shortbread cookie. I used Walker’s shortbread cookies. They are slightly more expensive than other brands, but their ingredient list is simple: just butter, flour, sugar and salt. Interestingly enough, some other brands don’t even have butter listed as an ingredient! What’s the point of shortbread without butter?
I just processed them with a bit of butter and sugar and we were on our way to a heavenly crumb topping! Then, I let the cake bake for a bit, removed it from the oven and added the crumbs to the top; I wanted their baking time to be less than the cake time so that they wouldn’t get too crispy. Then the now crumb topped cake went back into the oven to finish baking.
The cake is just lightly flavored with lemon. I mixed up the zest and sugar first, which helped release more of that wonderful lemon flavor. It smells so fresh and delicious as you’re mixing it up. For an extra boost of lemon flavor, I would add a tablespoon of lemon juice powder, but I realize that it’s not a staple in most people’s pantries so I shied away from it. (It’s on my list of King Arthur Flour Favorites too!)
This Lemon Ricotta Crumb Cake has a velvety texture and the flavor is rich and smooth. The buttery crumb topping is so delicious that you’ll be chasing the ones that got away. (My kids were fighting over the crumbs that fell off in the pan while serving.) It’s a perfect cake to serve as a breakfast treat, lovely with afternoon tea and delicious as a simple dessert after dinner. It’s a cake you can make any time of year, because for me?
Lemons are always in season :)