There is a certain je ne sais quoi about crafting cakes made with delicate cheeses and cultured milks. While folding ricotta cheese and rich buttermilk into a batter destined for a floral-scented icing, the flavors of summer and spring come together seamlessly.
The soothing and refreshing lavender essential oil, the fragrant lemon, the sweet thyme, all combined with classic ingredients including fresh eggs, home-ground flour, and bright yellow butter. This cake is a veritable symphony of flavors that all work together in just the right kind of way.
Lavender: The Most Versatile Essential Oil of All
Did that sound a little bit like I was standing on a soap box? Pardon me. I just get excited when I start talking about my oils. It probably doesn’t help that I have been finding that lavender helps with many many ailments and bath items at home: sleeplessness, skin allergies, sunburns, panic attacks, PTSD, skin irritations or dryness, laundry, hand soap, and on and on.
Lavender is one of the oldest essential oils discovered, and is mostly used worldwide as component of perfume. Over the centuries, lavender has been found to produce a myriad of positive effects on the body. It grows in small flowering plants, and the oil is extracted from the flowers themselves. A flowering plant in the mint family, the most commonly cultivated genus of lavender is properly called lavandula angustifolia.
Lavender really is the most versatile oil you can get. You can use it for all the ailments I described above, but you can also use it for aromatherapy, to keep insects and moths out of drawers and closets, to cure a tension headache, and even to flavor your culinary delights.
Enter: this lemon-ricotta cake with lavender thyme icing. There’s nothing better than eating your medicine instead of taking it. And even if you feel perfectly well, lavender is a delicious treat for the cultured palate.
Thyme: A Flowering Herb
Thyme is another flowering plant in the mint family, but this time it’s called thymus vulgaris.
(I don’t know about you, but I’ll stick with the informal name on this one. The Latin isn’t doing it any favors. But don’t let thyme lose any points with you. It’s truly the best herb there is.)
I suppose I like thyme so much I even managed to get it into a cake. And apparently I like mint so much that I didn’t even realize that when I fell in love with thyme, I was falling in love with mint, again. Plus, along with lavender, thyme is simply one of those scents, flavors, and plants that I am drawn to over and over again.
In the icing recipe, the thyme and lavender come together as a lovely pairing, balanced against each other and providing a superb sweetness to counter the moist cake.
- round cake pans
- parchment paper
- pastry brush
- stand mixer
- measuring cups and spoons
- citrus zester
- glass bowls
- citrus juicer
Make sure the butter, eggs, ricotta, and buttermilk are all at room temperature before making the cake batter. This ensures a well-mixed batter. Put the ingredients out on the counter at room temperature for at least 4 hours to achieve this.
Lemon Ricotta Cake
1 cup butter (find grass-fed butter HERE)
1 1/2 cups honey (find raw honey HERE)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup buttermilk (find buttermilk starters HERE)
1 T lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla (find good vanilla HERE)
1 teaspoon lemon juice 3 cups freshly ground whole grain flour (find organic grains HERE, grain grinders HERE and HERE)
1/2 tsp baking powder (find aluminum-free baking powder HERE)
1/2 tsp baking soda (find aluminum-free baking soda HERE)
1/2 tsp sea salt (find unrefined sea salt HERE)
Lavender Thyme Icing
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar OR powdered whole cane sugar*
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 tablespoons lemon juice
3 drops lavender (get food-grade quality essential oils HERE)
*To make powdered sugar, simply use whole cane sugar and place dry in a blender, blending until powdered. Take care to let the powdered sugar settle before you take the lid off, or the sugar dust will get you!
- Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350.
- Cut two parchment paper circles out to fit the bottom of the cake pans.
- Butter the cake pans generously, up the sides of the pans as well.
- Press the parchment circles into the bottom of each pan, and then butter the parchment circle. Set pans aside.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, buttermilk, lemon peel, vanilla and lemon juice and set aside.
- In another separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
- Alternate adding the dry whisked ingredients and the wet ingredients to the mixer bowl, beating well after each addition, ending with the dry ingredients.
- Pour into two buttered and parchmented cake pans.
- Sharply rap the bottom of the cake pans against the countertop to release any bubbles in the batter.
- Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
- Cool for 10 minutes.
- Make the icing: In a glass bowl, dump the powdered sugar in and set aside.
- Add the sprigs of thyme, and lemon juice, stirring to combine.
- Cover and set aside: let the icing mixture sit while the cake bakes and cools.
- After the cake is completely cool, add the drops of lavender essential oil to the icing.
- If the icing is too thick, add small amounts of lemon juice until you reach the right consistency (it should be opaque, but still be able to drizzle)
- Pour the icing through a strainer held over the cake to catch the sprigs of thyme.