Italian-Inspired Orange Ricotta Cake

This Italian-inspired orange ricotta cake is moist, soft, and bursting with intense orange flavor from zest and fresh orange slices! The sticky caramel-like topping provides just enough gooey and citrusy sweetness, while the mild and fruity olive oil flavor balances the cake perfectly. No one will know it’s healthier!

Butter for pan
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1 orange zested and sliced PLUS zest of one more orange (use pink navel oranges, blood oranges or any oranges you find)
1 ½ cup part-skim ricotta
¼ cup PLUS 2 tablespoon quality extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO)
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch baking pan very well (on bottom and both sides generously). Line bottom with round of parchment paper.
Stir brown sugar and water together to make a thick, pasty slurry, then spread it very thinly and evenly across the bottom of the pan (I used the back of a spoon and kept smoothing the slurry over until it was nice and even).
Arrange the orange slices on top of the brown sugar coating in bottom of the cake pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the ricotta, olive oil and vanilla. Add one egg at a time and whisk to combine.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt directly over the wet ingredients. Whisk or mix using a wooden spoon. Combine the sugar with the zest of two oranges and add that to the mixture. Mix again until batter is well combined (it may look a little thick and grainy. That’s fine, but be sure it’s well combined)
Scoop batter into the prepared cake pan. Gently shake to spread evenly.
Bake in heated oven for 45 minutes or more until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (You should begin to check at 40 minutes or so, but this could take 1 hour to bake. You want to make sure the bottom has a nice deep caramel color but does not burn)
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes or so. Run a thin knife around the corners to loosen the cake, then carefully invert onto serving plate. (Some of the orange slices at the bottom may get stuck in the pan, gently pull them up and arrange them on the cake if needed. But this is why a well-greased pan is important).
Let cool completely, then cut into slices. Serve as is, or add a dollop of creme fraiche or your favorite ice-cream. Enjoy!

Substitutions: This is a lighter orange ricotta cake. However, if you prefer, you can use whole-fat ricotta instead of part-skim. And in place of olive oil here, you can use 1 stick of butter (8 tbsp) melted and cooled. (I highly recommend you use olive oil here though, it produces a more moist cake. See tips in the post.)

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