Orange-and-Ricotta Pound Cake & A Few Gift Ideas

orange-ricotta loaf

As five of us celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving down here in Virginia, the rest of my family journeyed north to Vermont to the shores of Lake Champlain for a wild gathering with my aunt and uncle. Upon returning, my mother gave me the full report: Of course, the turkey, which she had prepared, was over-cooked, gross and inedible but roasted Jerusalem artichokes saved the occasion as well as an orange-and-ricotta pound cake that her sister prepared twice during their five-day visit.

I had to make the cake immediately. My mother was right. Flavored with orange zest and orange (or almond) liqueur, this incredibly tasty and moist — thanks to a generous amount of ricotta cheese — pound cake is the perfect treat, a particularly nice afternoon snack with a cup of tea, to have on hand this time of year. It would make a lovely gift as well.

ingredients for orange-ricotta loaf

orange-ricotta loaf batter

mini pans, ready for the oven

orange-ricotta loaves, just baked

cut loaf

Orange-Ricotta Loaf

Source: Giada De Laurentiis
Yield = one 9x5x3-inch loaf or three mini loaves

Notes: The first time I made this, I used a standard-sized loaf pan. For whatever reason, the batter rose way above the top of the pan and spilled all over my oven. Now, I should have known better — the batter filled the pan almost to the top edge. If you are baking this in a standard-sized loaf pan, I would recommend not filling it higher than 3/4 or even halfway to be safe. I had no trouble with the mini loaves and they were filled about halfway up (maybe a little more) with batter. Also, when I used the big loaf pan, I did have trouble removing the loaf from the pan without it splitting a little bit. So, with the mini pans, I let it cool almost completely in the pans before removing, and they popped right out. Finally, I should note that my aunt had no trouble with spillage so if you have a large enough large pan, you will not have the troubles I had.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups plus 1 table spoon granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 orange, zested (I used two clementines)
2 tablespoons amaretto (I used Cointreau bc I didn’t have amaretto)

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with butter (grease it very well). In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend.

2. Using a mixer, cream the butter, ricotta and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, zest and alcohol until combined. Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 45 to 50 minutes (about 35 minutes for mini pans). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. (For the mini loaves, I let them cool completely in their pans, which I think may have helped them stay intact during their removal, but I can’t say for sure. In the large loaf pan, such a long cool time in the pan might affect the texture.)

I wrapped the loaves in parchment paper, which is a pain as far as fastening goes — nothing sticks to it. I used a little needle and thread to secure the ends before folding and wrapping it in baker’s twine.
sewing parchment for packaging


Gift Ideas

Fish's Eddy

1. Anything from Fish’s Eddy.

This past August, my sister and I met met up in NYC for one night to spend some quality time together before her baby arrived. After devouring prosciutto-stuffed croissants at Eataly, we started wandering and discovered Fish’s Eddy along the way. Had we not had a show to get to, we would have spent the whole day there. It is SO much fun. Anything from this store would make a wonderful gift. I fell in love with this wood pig bowl.

selection of oils & vinegar from the Temecula Olive Oil Company

2. A selection of oils and/or vinegars from the Temecula Olive Oil Company.

It has been awhile since I’ve mentioned the Temecula Olive Oil Company, one of my favorite spots to visit when we lived in southern CA. Every single bottle of olive oil and vinegar that TOOC produces is as good as gold, but if I had to pick my favorite four, these would be it:

selection of oils & vinegar from the Temecula Olive Oil Company

goods, including Afeltra pasta, from Po Valley Foods

3. Pasta from Po Valley Foods.

For those of you without direct access to Eataly, don’t despair: Po Valley Foods sells Afeltra pasta online. The Afeltra pasta, of course, is a treat but so are many of the other varieties, in particular the La Campofilone and the Moro Buckwheat.

homemade granola with recipe card

4. Homemade granola with a recipe card.

I saw this packaging idea in a Better Homes and Gardens Food Gifts issue that I picked up at Michael’s last week. It’s so easy to put together and it looks really cute. Also, the same packaging can be used for countless baked goods — biscotti, cookies, cookie mix, hot cocoa mix, muffin mix, Chex party mix, etc. BH&G used it for a fruit and nut oatmeal mix.

As recommended, I used kraft paper, which I purchased at Michael’s, and set up my file to print four cards per page. I have a rounded corner puncher, so I used that on the corners after I trimmed them up.

I have a couple more thoughts: It’s especially nice if the paper is thick. I ended up spray mounting a piece of kraft paper to a thicker piece of paper before printing, so that when I cut the cards and tied them to the jars, they didn’t look so flimsy. I did not adhere the recipe card to the jar as BH&G recommends — I just secured it with the baker’s twine. I am thinking it might be fun to glue a magnet to the back of the recipe card so that the recipient can stick the recipe card to his/her fridge.

I also picked up a sheet of self-adhesive cork, and I’m thinking about trying to print directly on it, but I’m also scared about ruining my printer. I’ll keep you posted.

Also, if you cut a circle from your kraft paper to cover the top of the jar, you could use the space to write a note or adhere a cute holiday bell or wreath or candle or something.

homemade granola with recipe card


5. Julia Child notecards and/or holiday cards.

There is now a holiday card in two colors in the Julia Child notecard collection. They can be purchased here.

Julia Child notecards & holiday cards

filling the vanilla

6. Homemade vanilla extract.

Remember that vanilla you started steeping back in July? Well, it’s time to bottle it up and wrap it in ribbon.

Lake Champlain Chocolates Fair Trade Unsweetened Cocoa & Hot Chocolate

7. Lake Champlain Fair Trade cocoas.

I only just discovered these cocoas from Lake Champlain Chocolates. The hot chocolate would make a wonderful gift for anybody, but the unsweetened cocoas would be especially nice for any baker.

Chef's silver polishing plates

8. Chef’s Electrolytic Cleaning Plate plus a box of washing soda.

This isn’t very exciting, but if you hate polishing silver so much that any silver you own stays hidden for nobody to enjoy, this is something you should try. It is really kind of magical. This is what you do: fill up your sink with the hottest water you are able to get out of the tap; add washing soda; add electrolytic plate; add silver, making sure the silver touches the plate; rinse; dry; inspect; repeat if necessary.

Tarnished silver:
tarnished silver

polished silver:
silver, polished

9. Blood, Bones and Butter.

This book kept me up till the wee hours of the morning. It is nearly impossible to put down once you start. Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is as incredible as her writing. There are so many memorable anecdotes that I want to share — that I’ve wanted to share since I read the book this summer — but I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s such a great read.

orange-ricotta loaves

10. The above-pictured orange-ricotta Loaf or any homemade goodie.

Nothing here catching your eye? I have a pinboard dedicated to homemade food-related gifts (and non-homemade food gifts) but if you don’t see anything there either, just move on to the wonderful world of Pinterest…surely you will find something there.


  1. says

    You are FULL of good ideas! How do you do it? I always struggle with Christmas gift ideas, but you’ve started a wonderful list for me – thank you! I am taking part in a little secret santa exchange and last week I gave her some pumpkin granola (darcy’s recipe), and I think this week I’ll give her a loaf of ricotta poundcake and some cookies. I hope she likes baked goods, because that’s about all I’ve got in the way of gift ideas right now. Ooooooo I still have one packet of your notecards – maybe I’ll giver her those and then order some more for myself. I love the holiday version. WONDERFUL Ali! wonderful wonderful wonderful. I love your posts, they make my day :)

    • says

      Oh Talley Talley, you are too much. The orange ricotta loaf is delicious. I think it could be spiked with even more booze, too, but I don’t know how that will affect texture. Enjoy your santa exchange party!

  2. says

    Such a great post! Not only because all your gift ideas are wonderful, but because you reminded me that I’ve got that Giada cake in my mental folder to make it forever!

    I like the idea of the mini cakes, and if I have time this weekend, I might make a batch, as I do have some ricotta in the fridge

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Liz says

    I made the beautiful cake, and it really is so much lighter than pound cake. The texture is fluffy like the ricotta, and the flavor so subtle. I love it anytime of day–mid-morning with coffee–yum! I love that silver cleaning hint, too. I can’t believe it works.

    • says

      Liz — I meant to note that it doesn’t taste like pound cake at all and that’s part of the reason why I loved it. I should make a note of that. I didn’t even want to call it pound cake because I thought that might deter people from making it.

  4. says

    A very seductive pound cake! I adore the subtle flavors of orange paired with the ricotta.
    And your gift guide is enchanting; I’ll have one of each!

  5. says

    Oooh….. it is quite convenient that I have homemade ricotta in my fridge that needs to be used. YUM! I think I might to almond extract instead of orange (not crazy about orange-flavored baked goods) but I love, love this.

    And new cards from Ali! Yeah! I just placed an order. Great ideas all around and a necessary reminder to use those vanilla beans I ordered earlier this year.

    • says

      Tegan — you are welcome! The granola + recipe card is a cinch to put together and can be used for so many foods. I’m trying to branch out, but I always go back to granola :)

    • says

      Hina, I do. I think it will cook nice and evenly in a bundt pan. My only concern is if there is enough batter to fill a bundt pan properly. If you have a standard-sized loaf pan, fill it with water 3/4 of the way up or higher (my batter almost filled a loaf pan completely), and then pour this into your bundt pan to see how high the water level reaches. If it reaches higher than halfway, I say go for it. Let me know how it turns out!

  6. Hina says

    Overall I would say it worked in the bundt pan although it wasnt as tall as a whole bundt cake usually is. Also, while delicious, the texture wasn’t as light as I was hoping for given that the recipe calls for cake flour and that is what I used. I wonder if I made a mistake along the way…maybe the bundt pan might have had something to do with the cake not rising to it’s full potential?

    • says

      Hina — thanks for reporting back. Sorry to hear that the texture wasn’t as light as you had hoped — I used all-purpose and found the texture to be pretty light. I can’t say for sure about the pan affecting the rising and texture. It doesn’t sound as though you made a mistake. What kind of ricotta did you use? And did you add any alcohol?

  7. michelle says

    Made the the ricotta cake with homemade ricotta because I’ve been wanting to try my hand at that as well…. used half a teaspoon of food grade orange
    essential oil because that’s what I had on hand, and made it into 9 mini loaves with a pan that I have and it turned out the divine! thanks for the awesome recipe

    • says

      Michelle — so happy to hear this! Your mini loaves sounds adorable. Where did you find such mini loaf pans? Or did you double the recipe? Isn’t homemade ricotta fun and delicious? Love the idea of the orange essential oil…I bet that added a wonderful flavor.

  8. Maureen says

    I love your gift ideas and already bought some cocoa to add to hostess gifts!
    I was wondering if you know if pound cake can be frozen? I wanted to make some mini loaves and freeze for gifts in the upcoming weeks. Thanks again for wonderful ideas and recipes!

  9. Dorothea says

    Hello Alexandra,
    Tried the cake yesterday and it was delicious!! My son (9) who loves cake fell to the ground and said “this is the best cake ever mom!”.
    I could only fill up two small loaf pans and since I didn’t have any orange liquor in my cabinet I used “Peach schnaps” and they worked out fine!
    Thanks for another great recipe and happy holidays from our house to yours!!

  10. Maureen says

    Baking this right now and the house smells wonderful! Can’t wait to taste! Thank you again! I love today’s fontina post too! Yum!

  11. Terri says

    Will the silver polishing technique also work on jewelry? I have a few pairs of earrings that tarnished, and so many knooks and crannies that I just don’t bother with them. BTW, I’m making the orange-ricotta cake tonight!

    • says

      Terri — I just checked on the chef’s catalog website, and it says the plates work on jewelry, so sounds like they might work for you! Hope the cake turns out well for you!

  12. says

    I’m sure this pound cake was wonderful for Thanksgiving….I have just discovered it today, and have decided it is perfect for Spring as well! :) Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe!

    • says

      Joy — I’m so happy to hear this! I was actually just thinking about making a lemon variation, which for whatever reason, also feels a little more springy? I’m just wondering what I would use in place of the grand marnier…perhaps I’d just keep that the same. So glad you liked this!

  13. Lizzie H says

    So yummy! I split the batter between two regular loaf pans (4.5×8.5 I think) and it worked out perfect. Thanks for another great recipe.

  14. says

    Gorgeous blog/website. I am very excited about the orange ricotta cake. I live in the Pacific NW now but originally from NY and whenever my sister and I visit NYC we always go to Fish’s Eddy – love the bowls you posted!

  15. Marie-Eve says

    I found your blog via pinterest! Great recipes, pictures, and descriptions are very interesting. Thank you to share all this!

  16. Monique says

    I love your orange ricotta cake recipe. I am baking the cake,now. I made them in mini loaves, as you suggested in your instructions. I had to change a few ingredients because of my diet. I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour. I substituted sugar for honey + 1 tablespoon of sugar. I did not have the liquor, used pure almond extract. I tasted the batter, so yummy!!!! My first batch turned out perfect. I cannot wait to try them. Thank you for sharing a beautiful recipe.

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