I used to read these murder mysteries by Meg Cabot about the trials and travails of one Heather Wells, a college dorm administrator turned unofficial private detective who solves the murders of several of her snotty undergrads. According to the author, the series' fictional college was partly inspired by her own experience working at an NYU dorm for several years. One gets the impression it was hardly a dream job.
All of which is to say that it seems rather strange that my own house administrator at school (incidentally also named Heather) appears to quite like the hectic job of dealing with some four hundred undergrads. Not only does she seem quite happy that none of us have been pushed down elevator shafts or found beheaded in the kitchen, but she is somehow always incredibly warm and enthusiastic, despite the crazy hours she works. I've bumped into her on a Saturday afternoon pulling tray after tray of cupcakes out of the oven for an open house (in the sketchy dorm kitchen I always complain about, no less!)
We occasionally get emails from Heather with the subject line "You Snooze You Lose" and a picture of the homemade baked goods sitting in her office that are up for grabs. She had out lemon ricotta cookies one day, tangy and dense and good enough to almost make you think that spring was finally going come to Boston.
She condescended to share some of her favorite ricotta recipes with me, and food blogger that I am, I did some experimentation with them. This pound cake recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis (I'm kind of sentimental about Giada--the pie plate I used for my first pie was from her) and is a twist on the classic pound cake, adding ricotta and citrus. I swapped the butter for vegetable oil, to make the cake slightly lighter and to let the flavor of ricotta shine through, and reduced the amount of baking powder by a lot. The original amount called for was way too much, and a lot of the recipe reviews complained that the cake either spilled over or sunk when it was taken out of the oven. (Oh, and I made it a one-bowl recipe, because that's how many mixing bowls I own in college).
It's always exciting to get recipe recommendations from people and see how they turn out; this cake is flavorful and dense, sweet and slightly tart. In addition to feeding hungry college students, it's perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or a casual dessert. It's a classic cake and a great lemon loaf recipe, a necessary addition in any baker's repertoire. (Thanks, Starbucks).
For the Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups whole milk ricotta
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups cake flour
For the Lemon Glaze
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus more for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with vegetable oil.
Beat together the eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, and ricotta until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt.
Fold in the baking powder and cake flour. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Make the glaze. Mix together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and zest. The glaze should be thick and fall into the bowl in ribbons. If too thin, add more powdered sugar; if too thick, add more lemon juice.
Pour the glaze over the cooled pound cake. Sprinkle additional lemon zest if desired.