lemon ricotta layer cake fork to belly

Lemon Ricotta Layer Cake

lemon ricotta layer cake fork to belly

Ingredients in the kitchen have been a bit scarce lately, but I did have a bag of 7 lemons to use up—-which is mainly why we’re having a lemon cake today. This lemon ricotta cake is easily inspired by lemon ricotta cookies, which I still have yet to try but now fully believe in its magical flavor thanks to this cake! Like yogurt, the addition of ricotta makes this cake super moist and super dense. It’s essentially a pound cake in disguise. Hopefully no one has any gripes with turning a pound cake into a layer cake… ’cause I sure don’t 🙂

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I also have to give a big big big shoutout to my friend Jesse, who built me these gorgeous wooden boards you see! He had a bunch of wooden pallets and old fencing wood lying around in his backyard and was able to put these together. I went to Home Depot and bought a few stains for the wood, but ultimately decided to go with a mixture of apple cider and steel wool to get this dark gray stain. This was my first time playing around with staining wood and it was so much fun! I seriously stood there for like 5 minutes straight and watched the boards change color as they dried and absorbed the stain. If any of you who have also tried it, I’d love to hear about your experiences!


I wanted to do something a little different for this post. I didn’t plan on this starting out, but it just kind of happened as I began taking photos of the cake. It’s almost been a year since I’ve started blogging. A long the way I have learned a lot. And it’s all been thanks to helpful tutorials, photographs, videos, and gifs that I’ve seen all over the web. I thought I’d take the time to visually share with you guys some of the stuff that I’ve learned with cake decorating, and hopefully this helps any of you who have yet to try this technique! It is by no means professional quality and I’m pretty sure my methods aren’t exactly “correct”, but it’s the way I like to work and it gets the job done!

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Let’s start by discussing tools. Cake decorating tools are so much fun! I’ve boughten some things, many of which I’ve rarely even used, so I’ve narrowed them down to a short list of the essential ones.

Small Angled Spatula – This thing is magic. What’s funny is I’ve got a larger version of this but I use the small one the most. I tend to make 6 inch cakes, which is probably why the smaller spatula comes in handy so much but this thing is so great for getting in those hard to reach nooks and crannies.

Plastic Dough Scraper – If there’s only one tool for you to buy, it’s this one. I’m pretty sure I purchased mine for just $4 and it is easily the most useful of the bunch. You can always make do if you don’t have an angled spatula, a revolving cake stand, or a serrated knife. But this tool is super necessary to get those crip and clean sides on the cake.

Ateco Revolving Cake Stand – This one was a gift from my best friend. It is so unbelievable handy. I originally would only use a sheet of parchment paper underneath the cake and would turn it with my hand, so this thing kind of changed my life when I started using it. It also looks really cool sitting on your counter when not in use!

A good Serrated Knife – This kind of knife really helps with leveling cakes. I’ve used dull and sharp knives before, but have found that a serrated blade works best with most types of cakes.


1. After leveling your cake layers, stack them on top of each other as flat and evenly as possible. Once you’ve gotten the layers where you want them, stick a toothpick in each, lining them up in a horizontal row. This will help you to remember the placement later on.

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2. Use a pastry brush to sweep away any excess crumbs. 3. Drop a dollop of frosting onto the center of the first cake layer. Use a small angled spatula to spread the frosting out evenly towards the edges.

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4. I spread any extra frosting over the edges and down onto the sides of the cake to start the crumb coating. You can totally wait to do this after adding all the cake layers, I just like to do so beforehand so I can avoid any of those pesky stray crumbs! 5. Carefully add on your second layer of cake. Make sure the toothpicks are lined up and the layer is centered! Press it down lightly so it adheres to the frosting.

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6. I continue to wipe extra frosting that’s oozed out between the layers around the sides. I’ll also add a small bit of frosting to the sides of the cake to complete the crumbcoat. If the toothpicks are getting in the way, remove it, frost, and replace it. Do this one layer at a time. 7. Add the last layer of cake and finish up your crumb coat. I usually swipe frosting on back and forth, then rotate the cake while keeping the back of the spatula pressed up against the edge. Stick the cake into the freezer for about 5-10 minutes so the crumb coating hardens. This will make it a lot easier to finish frosting. Pop the frosting in the fridge to keep it at a good consistency.


8. Remove the cake from the freezer. Add on dollops of frosting around the entire surface of the cake. You can keep it messy because we’ll be smoothing it out later. It’s easier to take away, so the more frosting the better!

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9. This is my faaavorite part! Using a plastic dough scraper, press it slightly into the side of the cake. Keep it as steady and straight as possible as you rotate the cake platter. You’ll notice excess frosting pooling on the side of the scraper. At the end of your stroke, pull the scraper away quickly. Continue with this method to create a smooth layer of frosting around all sides of the cake. Make sure to wipe the scraper on the edge of the frosting bowl to keep it clean between strokes. If there are any uneven patches, dab a bit of frosting onto it and go around again with the scraper. This part takes some time and practice to get right but should come naturally once you get a feel for it. Remember, it’s just frosting and you can always add or remove! 10. To even out the top of the cake, brush back any edges that are sticking up around the circumference of the cake. You can also use the small angled spatula to create a smooth surface on top.

Since this frosting is a bit softer than normal buttercream, place the frosted cake back in the fridge until ready to serve. It’ll still be easy to cut while cold, so don’t worry about taking it out of the fridge before serving unless you prefer a softer frosting.

We have made cake 😀

Lemon Ricotta Layer Cake

Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Notes: If at any point the frosting feels too soft to hold together the layers of cake, pop it in the fridge for 10-20 minutes and then proceed with icing the cake.

for the cake
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three round 6-inch cake pans. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3. Add in each egg one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, buttermilk, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add the ricotta and dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating between each and making sure to beat well after each addition again.
5. Evenly distribute the batter between the three cake pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6. After removing from the oven, cool for at least 10 minutes, then remove from the pan. Make sure the cake is completely cool before frosting.

for the frosting
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tbsp), room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
8 oz. container mascarpone, cold

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter until pale (3-5 minutes).
2. Add in the sifted powdered sugar in two additions. Beat for at least 1-2 minutes between each addition.
3. Lower the mixer setting to stir and incorporate the mascarpone. If the frosting feels too wet, stick the bowl in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to let it harden slightly before frosting.


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About Courtney C.

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  • Such a gorgeous cake! And I love the lemon in there. Yum!

  • Absolutely beautiful! I’ve been meaning to go to Lowe’s to do it, but I’m worried how they will come out! Are the boards waxed or varnished over? Wish I had your friend to do it hahaha

    • I really recommend using natural ingredients to stain because they’re much lighter and the color is buildable, more so than the wood stains I bought. I didn’t use anything else on the boards other than the stain, though I did buy a sealant for afterwards. I’ve also seen a few tutorials online for building boards by gluing them together so it’s less hassle 🙂

  • Wow, what an awesome post, Courtney!

    Firstly, the cake is gorgeous and even though you said the cake layers are similar to pound cake, they look incredibly moist and fluffy! I love that it’s lemon flavored too – so perfect for the season. The rose on top is a beautiful touch <3

    Secondly, I love all the tips and gifs you provided! They were very helpful and 100% spot on. I'm obsessed with my bench scraper and use it for most of my baking projects too. I also agree that the small spatula and revolving stand are super important too. I would also suggest that with the revolving cake stand, an alternative to that is to just purchase a small wood turntable (I think on amazon for $10 or something) and place whatever cake stand you want to serve your cake with on top of the turntable and use that. That way you don't have to slide your cake off the platform and onto your desired stand – it's just ready to go once you're finished decorating. 🙂

    Your photos are gorgeous as usual, and the wood boards turned out beautiful!! <3

    • Thanks, lady!! Man, I wish I had thought of the wooden turntable when I was first starting out. I would’ve had no problem shelling out only $10 for something that could spin on its own 😀

  • This is so gorgeous Courtney! Love it so much! And your tips are great! I used the steel wool vinegar stain a couple months ago and loved it. But I put a coat of tea on first and used regular vinegar. I’ve got to try it again 🙂

    • Thanks Maya!! I really wanna try experimenting with tea as a stain the next time 🙂 wood staining is kinda addicting isn’t it??

  • I have no qualms, what so ever, about turning a pound cake into a layer cake! In fact, I think it’s sheer genius and needs to happen on the regular! LOVING this creamy, moist cake!! Lemon and ricotta IN cake form? Yatzi! Love! Pinned! Cheers and thanks for sharing the yum!
    P.s. those boards AND your photography are seriously gorgeous! <3

    • Hehe hey, Cheyanne! So excited you’re just as excited about pound cake layer cakes too 😀

  • Wauw, this cake is so gorgeous Courtney! These photos are simply stunning! And I love that you’re taking the time to show the detailed step-by-step process. Amazing work. <3

    • Hehehe :3 I’m a huge fan of tutorial blog posts too, glad you enjoyed all the gifs!

  • Wow stunning cake so elegant and sophisticated

  • 1) You’re awesome
    2) Your friend is awesome for making the boards. I’m looking into making some myself! My dad works with wood… a LOT and took me on a tour to Home Depot to look at wood and stains and sandpaper and the architecture student inside me died of happiness, but then I got back to Boston and life happened… and I haven’t made anything yet. But this is really inspirational!
    3) This is my favorite blog post of all time. Those gifts, the instruction, this cake. I’ve yet to try a layer cake and this is exactly what i need to get me started. I’m a very visual learner and seriously – these gifs break it down so well. Omg. I’m bookmarking AND sharing this.

    • Aw you are so sweet, Betty!! Don’t you just wish there was some company that made boards specifically for photographing and didn’t charge an arm and a leg?? If there is can someone please tell me… I am sooo excited to see your first layer cake. Like, I feel like it’s been almost a year :O I’m so glad I could help you out with these gifs!!!

  • What stunning photos of a stunning cake! How much can I use the word ‘stunning’ to describe this post? I’ve frosted a lot of cakes in my time, but I really like your method for the crumb coat and your toothpick trick. I’ll be following this tutorial to the letter next time I make a cake, hopefully it turns out as, well, stunning as this one!

    • Aww thanks Cecily! So glad I could help you out with the tutorial 😀

  • HERO STATUS. This post is epic, my friend!!

  • Your cakes are gorgeous‼️ I can’t wait to make one. By the way, thanks for the great tutorials.

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the gifs, Karen 🙂