As a professional pastry chef, I'm generally not a fan of most gluten-free baked goods. However, it's good to have a few tried-and-true gluten-free or flourless desserts in one's repertoire. I tested this cake on my gluten-loving friends without telling them it was gluten-free — and everyone loved it. It makes the perfect afternoon tea cake!
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 1/2 cups almond meal*
10 1/2 ounces ricotta
3/4 cup sliced almonds, garnish
Powdered sugar, for dusting
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste may be substituted
* Almond meal is the same as almond flour
Heat oven to 350°F.
Spray 8-inch round non-stick spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line pan base with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper lightly.
In the bowl of stand mixer, place the butter, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla seeds (or paste) and lemon zest and beat for 8-10 minutes or until mixture is very light and creamy. Scrap down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat until fully combined. Add the almond meal and beat briefly to combine.
Lastly, using a rubber spatula, fold ricotta into the almond meal mixture. Set aside.
In a clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar to the egg whites mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the cake. Bake for for 40-45 minutes or until cooked and firm to touch. Allow to cool completely in the cake tin. It will settle slightly.
Dust generously with powdered sugar to serve. I like to serve this cake with a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone with a big spoonful of lemon curd stirred in.