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Ricotta crumb cake. A summer love affair

It was the beginning of June, summer was nothing more than a promise in the air. Tommaso and I drove to Val d’Orcia to meet Sabrina and Barbara, the two sisters who own Villa Pienza. It was our first time there, though we felt at home as soon as the first piece of warm focaccia was put on the table and the first glass was filled with crisp, cold wine.

We sat there, right in the middle of the most beautiful wheat fields of Val d’Orcia, while a thunderstorm was brewing outside, sharing glimpses of life, of creative work and expectations. Towards the end of the meal, when we were dizzy from the flowing food and the infinite chats, they made some space on the table, moving aside empty glasses and the remnants of a memorable dinner.

What was put there, on the middle of the table, was an unpretentious cake, a humble ricotta cake with coarse crumbs on top and some dark chocolate showing up in between.

But it had sometimes alluring that I could not explain.

Even though I was so full I could barely walk, I could not resist a slice of the cake, that was soon after followed by a second wedge. The cake was still warm, the ricotta filling creamy and the chocolate oozing.

Villa Pienza

I had to have the recipe.

Sabrina gave me ingredients and an outline of the procedure to make it. It was easy, unbelievably easy to make. It was the answer to the problem of making a crostata, a shortcrust cake, in summer, when it is so hot that the butter melts in your hands. With this cake, you use the same ingredients, but with different proportions. You rub butter, flour and sugar in fine crumbs, then you add an egg to bind everything together. You don’t have to roll out the dough, just crumble it on the bottom of the pan, press it, and spread with ricotta, then crumble some more dough on top. Easy, foolproof recipe, with endless variations allowed.

The day after, when we took this cake out of the fridge for breakfast, we had a surprise: it was dense, almost like a semifreddo. You could cut neat slices, and the chocolate was shining through. I had to make it as soon as possible.

Ricotta crumb cake

Fast forward a few months, we’re at the end of August.

Summer is still here, in the scorching sun, in the smell of dried mint when you walk along a country road, in the hedgerows dotted with ripe blackberries and in the lazy afternoons spent inside, in the windows wide open at night to let an imperceptible breeze in.

Since that June dinner in Val d’Orcia, I’ve been making this ricotta crumb cake at least once a week, during cooking classes and when we had friends over for dinner, trying out different combinations of flour, fruit and chocolate. Everyone was impressed when we were making it – it is so easy! – but mostly when, at the end of a meal, we had a fat slice accompanied by an espresso or a little glass of iced limoncello: they always had some room left for a second serving.

A ricotta crumb cake in my cooking repertoire 

Two years ago, I decided to share these recipes, staples of a Tuscan repertoire, analysing the ingredients and the process with plenty of details so that, if you want, you’ll be able to include them into your collection and make Tuscan cooking your signature style.

After the crespelle alla fiorentina and the eggplant meatballs, after the ricotta and kale gnudi, after one of the desserts you loved the most, a humble Tuscan apple olive oil cake, and the summer baked eggplants with a breadcrumb topping, after the Tuscan ragù, the stuffed turkey breast, and the Italian potato salad, I want to share with you the recipe for a ricotta crumb cake.
I still have to decide if I prefer the cake warm from the oven, or after a few hours of resting in the fridge. Today I’m sharing with you’re the recipe for this ricotta crumb cake, as part of a Tuscan cooking repertoire, as an unmissable summer cake, and I’ll let you decide when to serve it, if you are in a hurry or armed by adamant patience.

Ricotta crumb cake

Let’s have a look at the ingredients of the ricotta crumb cake

Flour. Along with all-purpose flour, Sabrina told me to add 100 g of unsweetened shredded coconut. It works perfectly to make a crumbly summer cake, and it marries beautifully the dark chocolate of the filling. I often substitute the shredded coconut with almond flour for a nuttier result. I find almonds are the perfect complement to blueberries and apricots. I’m sure I’ll be using hazelnut flour soon, for a more autumnal flavour, along with dark chocolate and chestnuts.

Butter. I used both unsalted and rich semi-salted butter. They work perfectly well.

Sugar. Sabrina did not add sugar to the ricotta filling, I usually add a scant tablespoon. Follow your taste, but do not exaggerate with the amount of sugar, especially if you’re using fresh fruit or jam with ricotta.

Ricotta crumb cake

More than a filling

The recipe Sabrina gave me for the filling called for fresh ricotta, a tiny glass of vinsanto, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a generous handful of roughly chopped dark chocolate. If you make this cake for the first time, start with this combination, and you’ll fall in love. Then, for the next cake, you’ll bake, play with your imagination, or use one of these possible fillings I tried over summer.

Ricotta and summer berries. Mash two cups of your favourite summer berries with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar then set aside for half an hour. If you, like me, love herbal notes in desserts, try mint with strawberries, basil with raspberries, bay leaves with blueberries and sage with blackberries. Drop dollops of berries on the ricotta. Top with crumbles and bake.

Ricotta and grapes, with rosemary. This is Tommaso’s favourite combination. I patiently cut open all the grapes, remove the tiny seeds, then sprinkle them with cane sugar, the leaves from a few thyme sprigs and the grated zest of half a lemon. Very classy, end of summer cake.

Ricotta and jam. If you do not have fresh fruit at hand, try with your favourite jam. I already tried once with my bay leaf and blueberry jam and once with a sweet and tart apricot jam. Thick slices of preserved fruit in syrup work as well: a few weeks ago, I used my preserved apricots, for example.

Ricotta and Fall fruit. Can you imagine jammy figs in this cake, with a hint of rosemary? Or what about crumbled marrons glacés? It feels festive already. I can’t wait for persimmons: I’ll cut them open, and I’ll spoon their pulp just like jam on top of the ricotta, adding maybe some crumbled amaretti, too.

Ricotta crumb cake

Ricotta crumb cake with plums

So here we are with the recipe. Let me know if you’ll try it and which filling you’ll choose.

Ricotta crumb cake
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4.67 from 18 votes

Ricotta crumb cake

This is an unpretentious cake, a humble crumb cake with a creamy ricotta filling and jammy plums under a blanket of buttery almond crumbs.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword crumb, pound cake, ricotta
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Serves 8 - 10 people


For the cake

  • 250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 100 g (3 ½ oz) almond flour
  • 50 g (3 tbsp) sugar
  • 100 g (3 ½ oz) butter, cold
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 500 g (1 lb) fresh ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 small glass of vinsanto, or your favourite dessert wine
  • grated zest of ½ organic lemon
  • 8 plums


  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • In a large bowl, collect the flour, the almond flour, the sugar, the baking powder and the salt. Add the butter, cut it into small pieces. Rub all the ingredients with your fingers until you get fine crumbs, almost like sand.
  • Add a beaten egg and work all the ingredients again with the tips of your fingers' tips until you get coarse crumbs. You do not need to make a ball of dough. Stop when you get coarse crumbs that stay together when squeezed in your hand. Set aside.
  • Now prepare the filling. Scoop the ricotta into a bowl. Add a little glass of vinsanto, the sugar and the grated zest of half a lemon. Whisk energetically until you get a smooth cream.
  • Line with parchment paper a 26-cm round cake pan. I usually butter the pan, too, to stick the parchment to the edges: it will be easier when it comes to making a nice cake.
  • Now spoon a little bit more than half of the crumbly dough on the bottom of your pan, and press it with the palm of your hands to make the crust.
  • Pour the ricotta on top, and spread it with a spatula.
  • Pit the plums and arrange them on top of the ricotta.
  • Now crumble the dough that was left on top.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes, until pale golden and set.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool down for about 15 minutes before transferring it to a plate. Eat warm, or stash in the fridge for a few hours.
Tried this recipe?We love to see your creations! Snap a pic and tag @julskitchen and hashtag it #myseasonaltable!

Serve this ricotta crumb cake with…

This meal resembles one of the many summer lunches we had after a whole morning spent in a cooking class. Start with pasta with a garlicky tomato sauce with guanciale and olives, then prepare a turkey breast with a tuna and mayonnaise sauce and serve it with a tray of baked vegetables topped with more crumbs.

  • Pasta with tomato sauce, guanciale and olives. A garlicky tomato sauce, a handful of pitted olives to stir in some bitterness and strips of browned guanciale to coat a simple bowl of pasta, better if whole wheat. All you need is a sprinkling of cheese, a chair and a fork to call this a meal.
  • Turkey breast with tuna and mayonnaise sauce. You roast the meat on the stovetop with the canned tuna, lemon zest and white wine. This has a double effect. On one side your meat, a turkey breast which is known to be a cheap cut with not much flavour, will turn out unusually tasty and juicy. On the other hand, and here the quality of the wine has a key role, the white wine gravy gives an unexpected scent to the tuna mayonnaise.
  • Baked eggplants. Colours and textures of that once loved recipe surfaced along with the ingredients: eggplants, of course, either the round purple ones or those thin long ones, then breadcrumbs, parsley, capers, garlic and some grated Parmigiano. There it was, my forgiving recipe, thick slices of eggplants topped with boldly flavoured breadcrumbs, roasted in the oven until golden and crisp. You can use also peppers, onions and, my favourite, tomatoes halved and emptied.

All the recipes of my cooking repertoire

These are all the recipes I added so far into my cooking repertoire. This is an ever-growing list, an always expanding collection that represents the way I live Tuscan food and cooking. Have you already tried something?

  • Crespelle alla fiorentina. It is a handy recipe to learn as you can vary the filling according to the season: asparagus, artichokes and butternut squash are some of my favourites along with spinach and Swiss chard. You can mix the vegetables with fresh milky ricotta or add some béchamel into the filling. Cheese is a welcomed ingredient: Parmigiano Reggiano, Tuscan or Roman Pecorino, ricotta salata, or any other savoury aged cheese that you would happily grate over your pasta.
  • Ricotta and Tuscan kale gnudi. There are two crucial ingredients here that can help you ease the anxiety while waiting for your gnudi to float tot the top: ricotta and cavolo nero, the Tuscan kale. Use well-drained ricotta and squeeze very well the cooked kale. Once you make this, they will be your next success in the kitchen.
  • Tuscan ragù. The Tuscan ragù is cooked with red wine, poured in little by little, and with tomato purée (just tomatoes that have been peeled and blended into a sauce), even better if it is your homemade tomato purée, made during the heat of summer. To give more character to the ragù and have a more rustic sauce, sometimes I prefer to replace the passata with the same weight of peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed with my hands.

Main courses and side dishes

  • Beef and eggplant meatballs. According to the season, you can substitute roasted eggplants with boiled potatoes, roasted butternut squash or breadcrumbs soaked in milk. I usually choose between grated Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Pecorino or Provolone to add flavour to the meat, sometimes adding brined capers, too. This time I opted for Parmigiano, along with a pinch of dry oregano to give a Mediterranean touch.
  • Stuffed turkey breast. One of the recipes that my mum taught me and that I immediately associate with Sunday lunches is the stuffed turkey breast, roasted on the stovetop and not in the oven. It is a humble dish, but it has enormous potential.
  • Baked eggplants. Colours and textures of that once loved recipe surfaced along with the ingredients: eggplants, of course, either the round purple ones or those thin long ones, then breadcrumbs, parsley, capers, garlic and some grated Parmigiano. There it was, my forgiving recipe, thick slices of eggplants topped with boldly flavoured breadcrumbs, roasted in the oven until golden and crisp.
  • Italian potato salad. So a potato salad, which I had overlooked for years, becomes a distinguishing element of a menu, especially if you dress it with an Italian twist, with wild fennel, capers and olives. You can find the same aromas in a roasted pork loin with olive oil and wine, or in the baked eggplants that you are planning to serve as an appetiser.


  • Apple olive oil cake. You can dress it up for a dinner party: serve a slice of warm apple cake with a scoop of vanilla gelato, a cloud of whipped cream or a drizzle of custard. Wrap in foil a slice of cake for a school break or an office break. Bake the olive oil apple cake on a Sunday and enjoy it for breakfast on the first days of the week with a strong coffee or a cappuccino.
  • Coffee and vanilla pound cake. A versatile recipe to make a pound cake with the ingredients you have at hand, with a detailed explanation of the four macro-categories of ingredients you can use, plus a recipe for a vanilla pound cake marbled with coffee, designed to wake you up in the morning. Use white farro flour, white sugar and dark cane sugar, Greek yoghurt and butter.

Villa Pienza


Link love

  • One of the books I loved the most this summer is The Way We Eat Now, by Bee Wilson. Data, statistics, stories, insights, interviews, memories. This is excellent food writing and outstanding journalism, all weaved with the best storytelling. Bee Wilson shares the true story of how we got to eat what we eat, the dangers and the hopes. As Nigella Lawson said, you have to read this book, to understand the world we live in and what we can do to make it more sustainable and fair. We were never quite so confused about food, and what actually is. So, begin with this book, delve into the economy, gastronomy, ecology, psychology, history, traditions and cooking and discover how they are all related. You won’t be able to put it down. I’m sharing a food-related book every time in our weekly newsletter, this was in the latest issue. Don’t miss it, and subscribe here.
  • It’s Not Always Excellent to Be Jamie Oliver. An interesting article about Jamie Oliver, after he lost his restaurant empire. But he has still so much to say! He’s always been such an inspiration to me.
  • The Tuscan Town Famous for Anarchists, Marble, and Lard. The Apuan Alps, an unknown part of Tuscany with an incredible charm. And they make the tastiest lardo there!

Ricotta crumb cake

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This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh Giulia, you are killing me with this latest recipe! It is fantastico! I am on my way to the cheese shop for fresh ricotta…because tonight, I will give this my first try! I have already rated it 5 stars…because honestly how could it be anything else? The ingredients are perfection…

    Thank you once again, for the prose in this posting…it is magic.

    1. thank you for being always so supportive! and for having already baked the cake! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I am going to make this tonight! So beautiful. Just wondering, if one wanted to add chocolate to this cake like the original recipe you describe, what stage would it be added? Is it roughly chopped and sprinkled on top of the fruit? Or mixed with the dough? Thank you Giulia! Xx

    1. hello Katherine, that’s great! if you want to use chocolate, use it instead of the fruit, sprinkling it on top of the ricotta!

  3. Made this Ricotta crumb cake at the weekend, got to say by the time eager hands grabbed slices of the cake there were no crumbs left. I did manage to save a slice for me and it was delicious. Thanks once again for a simply wonderfully recipe!

  4. Hi! I love this post! (I am also loving your podcast too!) Quick question- how much is a “small glass” of vinsanto? 4oz? Also, any suggestions if you dont have vinsanto on hand?
    Thank you!

  5. This looks wonderful and I cannot wait to make it. If we go the chocolate route, do you add it to the ricotta? How much chocolate? I would love to make this with pears too, they’re all over the farmers markets here.

    Also your writing style is so beautiful!

    1. Ciao! Just chop very finely the chocolate (from 50 to 80g, according to your taste) and sprinkle that on top!
      And it would be lovely with pears AND chocolate!

  6. This cake has been on my mind since you posted the recipe and am finally going to make it! Should I use a springform pan? Thanks!!

    1. Ciao Chelsea! I usually line a normal pan with parchment paper, as I like to give it a rustic feel, but a springform pan would work as well!

      1. Thank you. I think I’ll do chocolate first too. We have a heat wave here in California so it will be perfect chilled this weekend. 🙂

  7. Dear Giulia,
    This cake is in my oven right now ? I hope it turns out nicely as the oven in rented expat flat is far from good. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    1. Keeping my fingers crossed for you! this is a very forgiving cake, I am sure it will turn out great even in a rented expat flat!

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Juls, thank you so much, your kitchen and cooking are so refreshing and genuine, I feel so comfortable and happy reading your recipes and stories. My husband and I have spent many lovely holidays in Tuscany, from since before our marriage, and until last year with three kids. We love Pienza, it is such a special place. So your recipe was fantastic and this lunchtime we travelled to Pienza and escaped for a little while this heavy lockdown here in France (and most of the world). My children and husband ( we are all English but have lived in France a long time) loved loved loved the cake/ pie/ crumble…. I had to use cream cheese and creme fraîche instead of ricotta and I used frozen organic raspberries and some organic cherry jam together for the fruit. Obviously I didn’t have the wine either, but my God, it was good enough anyway. I want to share two photos but not sure how to connect them to this email.
    So thanks again. I will be looking at your kitchen posts for more stories and recipes. I feel a little less sad about the world at the moment when I reading them!
    Marie, near Paris, France

    1. Hello Marie, thank you so much for your lovely message and kindest words, it really made my day! I really like your idea of using a combination of cream cheese and creme fraîche, I can imagine you can find excellent one in France. Frozen organic raspberry and cherry jam sound perfect, too!
      I’m really looking forward to see what else you’ll be cooking!
      A warm hug, Giulia

  9. 5 stars
    We are having a couple days of warm weather so we are eating this cold. I made it with a store bought jar of morello cherries (from Trader Joe’s) I had in the cupboard, and they complement the ricotta filling nicely. I had to sub in Marsala for the wine and I might play around with other subs, but I love this as it is a little different from the many other cakes And tarts that I regularly bake. We’ve been having it for a breakfast treat and my husband loves it with coffee. Can’t wait to try some other seasonal variations.

    1. oh this is so fun, I baked this cake yesterday, too! This is the best treat for breakfast! 🙂

  10. 5 stars
    Dear Giulia,
    I accidentally found your website, while searching for the ricotta-with-fresh-berries cakes. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! My son and I just finished our first (followed by second) slices of your ricotta crumb cake. We fell in love with the cake from the first bite. I made it with fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I don’t have wine, but I used maybe two tablespoons of the sour cherry syrup instead. Other than that, I followed your recipe. We enjoyed our slices still warm, while drinking late evening tea. I already think of tomorrow’s breakfast, morning coffee with a slice of ricotta crumb cake. I have a strong feeling this cake will permanently live in my home. Next one will be with the plums.
    Your stories touched my soul. I kept browsing your recipes and reading about your life for hours. I love your writing style, and I will be coming back to read, to cook, and to bake. I am your new fan.
    Thank you so much!

  11. Hi Juls,

    My husband and I were recently introduced to your cooking by friends who took a class with you in Italy, and we have been just amazed by the simple, beautiful, and delicious dishes they learned to prepare. This ricotta crumb cake is one of our favorites, and I was excited to see your mention of the grape rosemary combination, since we have a surplus of grapes in our yard at this time of year. We are new to preparing desserts with fresh herbs, and I was just wondering—do you use both rosemary and thyme together in this variation? Should they be tossed with the grapes, or incorporated in the dough or ricotta? And do you recommend using quite a lot of the herbs, or just a little?

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful recipes—we are very excited to discover more of them!

    1. Hi Leila, so nice to meet you here! I am also excited you’re going to try herbs in baking, they will become a signature of your desserts, I am sure.
      I usually am very careful with herbs, as they might be overpowering, so let’s say just a few rosemary needles to start would be more than enough. I’d use just rosemary, and leave thyme for other fruits. Toss the finely chopped rosemary with the grapes.
      So curious to know what you will thin of the result!
      Thank you for your message!

  12. 5 stars
    I can’t wait to make with berries, but my sister-in-law does not eat fruit. Crazy, I know! So I will start with the chocolate, which everyone will love for our family gathering. The only dessert wine I have is Amaro. I’m not sure this is comparable to Vin Santo. I was thinking of a simple diluted lemon juice as a substitute or should I just skip altogether?

    1. The chocolate version is a classic, and so good! my mum is the same, she doesn’t eat fruit, so I’ve been making this cake with chocolate for her, too. If you do not have Vin santo, or another sweet dessert wine, you can even add milk!

      1. 5 stars
        Grazie! The crumble was delicious and my sister in law thinks I am the best ever. I only wish I had found you before our last trip to Italy in 2019. We spent time in Siena and Il Falconieri in Tuscany. Next trip we will definitely come to your class.

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