the aromas of sweetness and comfort

ricotta-orange pound cake | the merry gourmet

My daughter had a fever Friday night. Her eyes were glassy, and she didn’t have her usual bouncy enthusiasm for our Family Movie Night. Instead, she was sluggish and tearful. After dinner – and after chewing some children’s ibuprofen – she wrapped herself up in a cozy, red blanket and headed upstairs to her room. While she read a book on her Kindle, my husband and I watched Turbo (for the third or fourth time) with our son.

Maddie didn’t stay up late reading, though, as has been her habit lately. She was fast asleep by 8:30 or 9:00, tucked under her quilt and at least two other throw blankets. My husband, expecting her to wander downstairs in the middle of the night with pain from another fever, had set out an assortment of symptom-relieving medicines where they’d be easy for us to find without having to rummage through the cabinets. But she didn’t come down that night. She slept hard until morning.

On Saturday, her temperature was lower, and I could tell she felt a little better. She still wasn’t herself, though. When she didn’t want to take a trip with us to the local library to get a new book, I could tell she was still not feeling well.

I didn’t feel so great on Saturday either. I didn’t have a fever, but I felt a little achy, and my allergies were flaring up. Mostly, I just felt…blah. Unexcited, uninspired, and unmotivated. I wanted to feel like cooking, but I didn’t. And — I’ll confess it here — despite receiving a beautiful baking cookbook in the mail the day before, I didn’t even feel like baking.

As the morning turned into afternoon, I remembered that, sometimes, just committing to something – jumping in and immersing myself in an activity – can be inspiring, even if I wasn’t feeling it from the beginning. Writing is often this way for me. Often, I dread it, and I feel like the words – the right words – will never come. But if I just start writing, if I force myself to sit and focus (and no matter how many times I may end up hitting the ‘delete’ key), eventually something emerges, and I feel better about things. I feel better about writing, about what I have written, and about my life in general.

So, on Saturday, I decided to bake a cake. I let the butter and eggs come to room temperature, and by that point, I was committed. There was no turning back.

(Okay, okay, I could have put those eggs and that butter back in the refrigerator, but that would feel too much like defeat. And I am not one to easily admit defeat.)

By the time the cake was in the oven, I did feel better.

By the time the cake was out of the oven, filling the house with the aromas of sweetness and comfort, we all were feeling better.

Baking, for the win!

ricotta-orange pound cake | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 8-10

Cook Time: 50 minutes.

Ricotta-Orange Pound Cake

There's something special about the simplicity of a pound cake. Pound cakes are reliable and versatile, and everyone seems to like them. This one is no exception. And while this pound cake is gussied up a bit, it's not over the top. A slice of this cake, served simply with a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, would satisfy any guest of any age, on any occasion.


1-1/2 cups (145 grams) cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle position. Butter and flour a deep 9-inch round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated. Beat in the Grand Marnier, vanilla paste, and orange zest. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, beating on medium after each addition, just until incorporated. Give the batter a final stir by hand.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out a few crumbs. Transfer to a rack to cool for 20 minutes, and then invert cake out of pan to cool completely. Dust the pound cake with confectioners’ sugar.

Very slightly adapted from this recipe by Giada de Laurentiis in Food & Wine.

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26 Responses to “key lime pie with vanilla whipped cream”

  1. Alan Cooke — July 4, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    Key Lime Pie is one of our family faves! Included it in a recent post myself 😉 Will have to try the cream cheese addition, sounds yum!!

  2. Maggie at Eat Boutique — July 4, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    My father in law sends me key lime juice from Florida all the time. I go through recipe after recipe for great key lime pie. Yours is next! I love the addition of coconut to the crust. 🙂

  3. Annapet — July 4, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    Will definitely go full fat on the cream cheese! I’ve NEVER been interested in Key Lime Pie until yours came along. I have to thank our mutual friend Alan Cooke for the initial RT.

    Thank you for sharing! 😉

  4. The sweet/tart combo is exactly what I love so much about key lime pies. It’s so rare that I have one, though, seeing that it can be pretty tough to get key limes up here.

    This looks absolutely divine and I love the story that goes along with it.

  5. Macaroni Mama — July 4, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

    A big thumbs up, MJ. It was delicious!

  6. The Duo Dishes — July 4, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Squeezing the juice is the fun part! We’ve definitely made this pie a couple of times over the last summers. It’s always a hit.

  7. Jen — July 4, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

    My dad loves Key Lime Pie. We vacationed often to Sarasota and always ate at a restaurant that had excellent key lime. I wish I could think of the name of it but I think it had “Tomato” in it.

  8. sweetsugarbelle — July 5, 2011 @ 12:23 am

    Simply beautiful. The beach looks like heaven. I miss it so.

  9. Kulsum at JourneyKitchen — July 5, 2011 @ 2:00 am

    Sweet and tart is just perfect dessert for me (except when chocolate is involved it has to be sweet and nutty)This looks wonderful.

  10. sam henderson — July 5, 2011 @ 7:13 am

    Well, that just looks wonderful. I do so love a key lime pie.

  11. Winnie — July 5, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    I love key lime pie. Yours looks fantastic, and your writing here is just lovely, MJ. Happy summer…and happy pie day!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — July 5th, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

      Thank you so much, Winnie. I appreciate the writing comment more than you know.

  12. Lucy@acookandherbooks — July 5, 2011 @ 9:55 am

    Love Key lime pie – this one’s a beaut!

  13. Sally — July 5, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    I want a piece of that pie. Now. For breakfast!

  14. One of my most favorite pies ever; yours sounds wonderful! And I love the Atlantic Ocean beach photos. I spent ten years in NC and left part of my heart there forever; reminds me of many family vacations in North and South Carolina.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — July 5th, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

      Anytime you want to come visit, we have a room for you, Barb!

  15. Renée J. (RJ Flamingo) — July 5, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

    It’s not traditional, but it sure sounds good! And yes, I squeezed all 14 of those little buggers to get a half-cup of juice for mine. :-)) Sounds like you had a perfectly idyllic weekend!

  16. Key lime pie is my favorite… Love this!

  17. Rachel — July 5, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    This looks wonderful! I definitely associate key lime pie with my Florida vacations. We went to Palm Coast last year and I’m pretty sure I had some there! I’ve never actually made a key lime pie though, but your recipe makes me want to try it out. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. Paula — July 7, 2011 @ 10:58 am

    Glad you were able to *get away* for a few nights and enjoy the water and the weather. Your pie looks beautiful!

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  21. Wow, what a pie! It looks like it came straight from a bakery. Great job. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday and I’d love it if you’d come by and link your pie up.

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  23. Courtney — July 17, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    I’m recently obsessed with Key Lime flavored desserts. Glad I found this! 🙂

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