Mother’s Day Tastes Good

What’s this? Oh, it’s only THE BEST CAKE I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Like, all caps good. Like, I’m tempted to freeze some of it and defrost it on Father’s Day and serve it up to John because there’s no way in hell I’ll make a cake that even begins to rival this one. Like, I’ll definitely not be doing that, though, because I have such strong feelings for this cake that it will simply not be possible for me to consume it in its entirety.

That picture up there? It’s of the slice of cake I ate FOR LUNCH yesterday. Yup. With a cup of coffee. And then another little bite while the fridge door hung open.

Part of the awesomeness of this cake is that it sounds gross. I love gross stuff. When John was describing it to me (while it baked during dinner on Mother’s Day), I actually looked him in the eye and said Wow, I’m sure it’s good, but can we agree that it sounds NASTY? and he nodded his head in agreement because when you’re discussing a cheesecake and then you say that there are raisins in it you just have to agree that–though it may in fact be divine–it certainly sounds gross.

Which just serves to highlight how utterly not gross this cake is. This cake is perfect. Really. It is the most perfect dessert I have ever tasted and I fancy myself a committed consumer of sweets.

Here is my Mother’s Day dinner:

Steak with cilantro pesto made fresh from our garden, and micro-greens with this simple and slightly sweet vinaigrette I made a week or so ago that we’ve been nomming on ever since. Crisp and clean dinner, then into the tub with the kid and then John poured her into jammies and then we plied her with books until we tiptoed from her room, and out to the patio to sip wine and savor bites of the most perfect cake in the world while the sun set.

39 hours of labor were totally worth it. There have been other moments where I’ve thought that, but I really wish someone had been psychic enough to mention this cake waiting two years down the road to me right around the time my contractions started doubling up. I’m just saying: I think it would’ve helped.

Here’s the recipe, folks, taken from “Chez Panisse Cooking” by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters. If you don’t own this cookbook already, ummm…you should. This cake isn’t its only perfect moment.

Ricotta Cheesecake
serves 10 to 12 (or one gluttonous mother)

ingredients

for the crust:
12 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 large egg
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking soda
pinch salt

for the filling:
1/4 c. plus 1 T. marsala
1/2 c. golden raisin
1/2 c. pine nuts
4 c. whole-milk ricotta
3/4 c. heavy cream
4 large eggs
9 T. sugar
large pinch cinnamon
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
5 T. all-purpose flour

method

for the crust:
Prepare the cheesecake crust: Cream 8 tablespoons of the btuter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and the vanilla. Beat until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Stir only until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. On a baking tray bake the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool. Place the dough on a flat surface and smash it with a rolling pin to make fine crumbs. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and stir it into the crumbs. Butter an 8 1/2-inch-round springform pan. Place the cookie crumb mixture in the pan. Using your hand, press the crumb crust against the side of the pan to form an even crust.

for the filling:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the cheesecake filling: Heat the marsala and pour it over the golden raisins. Let stand for 20 minutes. Toast the pine nuts in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes and set aside. Place the ricotta, cream, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extract in a bowl. Suft the flour over the top. With a heavy whisk, mix the ingredients for about 4 minutes, until very well combined. The mixture will never be absolutely smooth because ricotta has a very finely coagulated curd. Add the raisins and marsala and the pine nuts and stir them in with a large spoon. Taste the mixture and adjust the sweetness if necessary (different types of ricotta may need more sugar than others).

Spoon the cheesecake filling into the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 hours. The top will turn deep brown and will puff up. Cool the cake for 20 minutes on a rack. Run a metal spatula or thin knife around the edge of the cake and remove the springform pan. Serve the cake while still warm from the oven. The texture is best if it is not refrigerated before serving.

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