Chocolate ricotta gradient cake

Chocolate ricotta cake

This cake was based on a recipe from a book called “Bake it Like You Mean It” that I got a couple of years ago.  It’s full of beautiful photos and great inspiration, but for a few reasons I’m always a bit suspicious of the recipes themselves – the book came with a gigantic list of errata, the quantities seem crazy at times (three pounds of butter to frost a nine inch cake?!), and the instructions don’t seem to match up well with the picture of the end product.  So when I finally made this cake, I decided to make some modifications and take the instructions with a grain of salt.

I used the filling recipe in the book, which is a mixture of ricotta, mascarpone, whipped cream, and chocolate (I left out the coffee).  The idea is to divide the filling into five different bowls and mix different amounts of chocolate into each one, so when you assemble it the layers of filling form a gradient.

Chocolate ricotta cake with white chocolate flower

I decided to make a six inch cake instead of an eight inch cake (making half the amount of filling), and used a chocolate cake recipe from my mom, baking three six inch rounds and cutting each in half horizontally.  I’m not sure where the chocolate cake recipe came from originally, but it’s delicious and moist, and I use it all the time for cakes and cupcakes.  I left out the coffee syrup that is used in the book, since the cake was already so moist.  I then frosted the cake in ganache and topped it with a white chocolate flower following Alice Medrich’s instructions in her book Chocolat.

By far the trickiest part of this cake was frosting with ganache, which I have never done before.  Since the lighter filling layers didn’t have much chocolate in them, they were very soft, so it was tricky to get the ganache to stick to this part of the cake.  Also, even when I got the ganache to a nice spreadable consistency, it seemed to get very hard as soon as I started frosting.  I’m not sure what the solution to this is… maybe just get the ganache even softer and just work quickly?  Or maybe try just pouring liquid ganache over the whole thing?

Making the white chocolate rose was a lot of fun and worked surprisingly well.  It’s made from “chocolate modelling dough”. This is just chocolate and corn syrup, which you heat until the chocolate melts, stir together, and pour onto a plate and leave to sit.  I let it sit overnight, and when I went to use it today I just scraped it off the plate and kneaded it until it felt like play-dough.  To make the flower, you just roll nine balls of dough and flatten each one into an oval with a rolling pin.  You then form each one into a petal by gathering one edge and fit it into a bowl lined with plastic wrap, with a little melted chocolate in the bottom.  I made this in a sugar bowl about four inches across.  The rose is a little tall for my liking, so if I did it again I would use a shallower dish or just make the petals smaller.  (You can’t tell as much from these photos, because I chose the photos where it looked best!)

The chocolate dough was very easy and fun to work with, and since it’s almost pure chocolate it’s tasty too.  I think I’ll be making more with this in the future!

White chocolate flower

Chocolate ricotta cake

Chocolate ricotta cake

The filling is very tasty and melds nicely with the cake.  It has a good tang to it that’s a nice change from just plain sweet fillings.