Ricotta cake with plum and peach


A new and improved coconut stand spotted in Accra! Normally coconuts are sold from a flatbed hand-pulled cart, like the one below at Danquah Circle. When you buy it, the top is slashed off and you get your fresh coconut, ready to drink (often with a straw).


Here’s a cake made for a Sunday lunch: more post-holiday baking. This is a light ricotta cake with plum and peach. It’s based on this Raspberry-Ricotta Cake from Epicurious, which looks lovely, but less sweet, and with fresh fruit and some crushed amaretti biscuits thrown in.

Ricotta cake with plum and peach

70 g crashed hard amaretti biscuits, like these

4 medium eggs (or 3 large)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta (250 grammes)

2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

115 grammes softened butter
1.5 cup chopped fresh plums and peaches  (about 1 of each, depending on size).

Heat oven to 180C, and line a 24 cm cake tin with parchment paper. Rub a little butter on the internal sides of pan.

Whisk eggs and sugar, then add ricotta and vanilla, then soft butter. Whisk in flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt gently.  Now you have a light but quite buttery batter. Pour half into tin, then top with half the chopped fruit and half the crushed amaretti.  Pour over the rest of the batter, then the rest of the chopped fruit and the other half of the crushed amaretti.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. This one baked for 55 minutes. Cool on rack before slicing into wedges. I wrapped it with a tea towel to keep the ants at bay, which was successful.


This is halfway through adding batter to pan: batter, then chopped plums and peaches, then half the crushed amaretti biscuits. I don’t have one of it actually baked, but it was delicious!  We enjoyed it at lunch, and the leftovers kept well.

Note: I’ve been re-reading Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: True Stories from a War Zone, published 2004 but still very good.

Salvaged peach compote for Sunday dessert

Garbatella, Bar dei Cesaroni

After months of ifs and maybes, we have some clarity. Moving day is approaching: we should be on a plane in 7-8 weeks, and the finality of that is sinking in. I am writing lists, sorting through cupboards, de-cluttering shelves and wondering what all this will mean. The planned destination is Accra (Ghana), which should be really interesting on many levels. I hear so many good things about Accra, and am very much looking forward to new opportunities there. It will be very challenging to leave Rome and friends here, and I am certainly a bit overwhelmed by it all. This morning we went for our usual Sunday cappuccino up the hill, in the heart of Garbatella, and it is hard to imagine being a continent away from here.

steps in garbatella

Part of moving is emptying out fridge, freezer, and most of the cupboards, all of which are stuffed. It calms me, sorting through section by section. We could live for weeks on stored food, and it does spark thought of why I keep so much on hand. Love of cooking, wanting lots of option of what to cook, recipe contents of Ottolenghi cookbooks, the hunt for certain ingredients in Rome (tarragon, lemongrass, custard powder…) and subsequent stockpiling when the item is located here or abroad. Or the interesting items discovered at local food markets: truffle salami, peperoncino honey (very spicy!), a new lemon-zucchini-pepper condiment….. No, it is time to enjoy it. I am sure Accra will have interesting food markets as well.

I had a box in the freezer marked “chocolate cake”, so yesterday I pulled that out for afternoon tea. Autumn is coming, it’s down to 23-24 degrees and sunny, so we’ve actually started having hot tea again. Freezer-burned mystery chocolate cake? Why not? But when I opened the box, it was rock-hard frozen chopped-up fruit, not cake. Possibly plums, probably hastily tossed in before some trip, with a vague idea of using those for a smoothie or a cake. Oh well. Our oven just broke, and as I have been reading Norwegian news about plums being in season there, I thought – aha! I’ll make a Norwegian plum compote! Very retro. More dessert than jam: plums cooked with water and sugar, maybe a pinch of cinnamon, until they collapse a bit, then thickened with potato starch. You serve it cold or lukewarm, with cold milk or cream. On closer examination the box contained ice-crusted peach wedges, so peach compote for Sunday dessert it is.

peach compote

Salvaged peach compote for Sunday dessert

500 grammes stoned peaches (or plums), roughly chopped
200 ml water
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
75 grammes golden sugar
2 tbs potato starch, stirred into 100 mol cold water

Cook the chopped peaches with the 200 ml of water, sugar and cinnamon, ten minutes or so until soft. My peaches were frozen and needed 15 minutes. No need to skin them first, the peach pieces will gently collapse after a while. Taste it to see if you think it is sweet enough, if not add a bit more sugar. Now, take the pot off the heat. Stir in the potato starch + water by pouring it int the hot fruit mixture, then put the pot back on the heat and bring to the boil again, for a couple minutes. Keep stirring, you feel it thicken and become more gelatinous. Cool. Serve cold with milk or cream, with a little sprinkle of sugar if needed.

And for afternoon tea, I am now baking banana bread in our old bread machine……. There is always some way to make cake!


Tony’s peaches in prosecco

It is Ferragosto today, 15 August, and the peak of the Roman summer. The name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti (“Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus”). Shops are closed, our palazzo is deserted, and my will to cook dwindles steadily with the rising temperatures. So I was thrilled when our visitor Tony made us dinner. Sicilian fennel-orange-olive salad, a timballo of zucchini wrapped around tagliatelle in fresh tomato sauce, with a lovely fresh Pecorino wine. Then he served these peaches for dessert. Even better the next day!

Tony’s peaches in prosecco

One bottle of prosecco
5-6 peaches
2-3 tbs sugar, optional

Start the day before serving, at least. Find a nice deep dish you can cover, that will fit in your fridge. Wash the peaches, and chop them coarsely. Remove the pit, but leave skins on. Sprinkle sugar on, maybe half a tablespoon per peach depending on how sweet they are. Taste: remember, the flavours will develop as the fruit steeps. Pour over the bottle of prosecco. Cover, and place it in your fridge.

Leave covered in fridge for at least 24 hours, or even 48 hours. The cold peach pieces will now have a gentle taste of prosecco, while the prosecco itself will have turned slightly pink and peach-flavoured. Ladle into some pretty glasses, and serve cold.


So simple, and utterly delicious! Perfect for hot weather. So I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday, at the ever-gracious The Novice Gardener, and will be ladling this out there. Many thanks to host (welcome back from your holidays!) and co-hosts.

Fiesta Friday

Notes: In case you do not have prosecco, Tony also makes this with white wine, which is also wonderful. The bubbles vanish anyway. Just use something not too sweet a wine that you would like to drink, or something like a light elderflower cordial, with sparkling water.

Piazza on Ferragosto
Here is our very empty piazza just now, lunchtime Ferragosto. Look at all those parking spaces! There is a group of pensioners chatting below. I can hear music from the palazzo across the street, and someone shouting “Ciaoooooo!” nearby. Six years ago we were newlyweds, we had just bought this flat and we spent Ferragosto painting the bedrooms. The old lady across the street thought this was riveting, and spent several hours watching us from her window, propped up with a red pillow. Stranieri moving in! Foreigners! It was really hot, everything was shut nearby except the bar across the piazza. Nice people, terrible coffee; but with no kitchen here we were desperate for a cappuccino, however bad (it was). We did have our new fridge, sitting in the living room (it was all about to be renovated) so lunch was IKEA pickled herring, eaten with paint-speckled plastic spoons.

It was fantastic! Every August 15 I am reminded of that day, of the heat and the paint and the herring, and how happy we were. And still are! Buon Ferragosto a tutti!