editor’s note: Today’s very special post is from Betty Kilpatrick, who happens to be the mother of one of my best friends, Kristen. If you read this site, you’ve seen Kristen’s stunning work—she’s the photographer behind so many of my favorite shoots through the years. We love talking about food together, and our conversations often turn to what her mother, Betty, is cooking up at home in Fort Worth. For years, I’ve drooled over descriptions of the homemade cheeses and wholesome baked bread and been equally moved by the way that Kristen speaks of her mother’s creations with so much pride and love.
In honor of Mother’s Day weekend—and since Kristen has been at home cooking alongside her mama during quarantine—I asked the duo to share this Lemon Ricotta Poundcake that I recently spotted on Kristen’s Instagram. Read on for the inspiring story that Betty shares about what scratch cooking means to her, right alongside her daughter’s photographs. And of course, the recipe is at the bottom—it’s one I’ll be making for years to come.
I know that you guys will find this article as meaningful and special as I did. From Betty:
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the expression “more is caught than taught.” It certainly rings true with passionate cooking and homesteading, something that has been handed down from one generation to the next in my family. Growing up, I was lucky to be close to my grandparents – spending summers working (but really playing) on their small farm. Life on the farm meant scratch cooking was the only option for Grandmom, a hard-working Czech woman who loved a bargain until the day she died. My brother, David, and I used to scour her kitchen for anything purchased from the store… our findings were sparse. It’s something we used to joke about. In a time when everything comes premade, pre-chopped, or pre-cooked, it seems silly to labor over such tasks.
But as I’ve grown, I realize the benefit of scratch cooking greatly outweighs any time lost. Scratch cooking gives us time together, a concept of hard work and accomplishment, and a deep connection with the earth that sustains us.
For Grandmom, this meant that butter, cheese, milk, cream, bread, eggs, vegetables (be they fresh or canned from the previous harvest), and pickles all came from her modest kitchen. Her freezer was full of meats processed from the cattle Granddad raised, she knew the exact spot to find the turkey hiding in the woods, and in true Czech fashion, there was always a freshly baked sweet treat for her grandkids. David and I gladly accepted the latter, scarfing down every warm kolache that came our way. My mom inherited this passion from her own days on the farm and today, many of the traditions carry on. Even as I write this, I am looking over my summer garden—realizing I wish I had inherited Grandmom’s diligence about canning excess growth. To this day, the sight of a bursting green garden dusted with orange squash blossoms reminds me of Grandmom and connects me to her legacy.
At the farm, making a mess in the kitchen was never considered a negative—it was accepted as part of the process. A process that resulted in the most delicious treats. We knew that any mess could be thrown in the scrap bucket kept in the corner for chickens, or composted for next year’s growth. In the times of COVID, times when tragedy and heartbreak abound, I hold tight to this idea.
While a kitchen mess is nothing compared to the current state of the world, I know that the mess of this will be used for next season’s growth. That this mess, too, while painful beyond imagine, has been used to bring people together.
I haven’t come across a single person who doesn’t have a silver lining in the midst of this all.
For me, this season has allowed me the extra time to take up cheesemaking again, including runs to local farms to get the freshest raw milk and important updates on the “girls” (aka cows who I now know by name.) My biggest silver lining has been having my oldest daughter, Kristen, isolate at our ranch for two months, allowing us to spend more generational time in the kitchen. After a raw milk run and subsequent Gouda making, we found ourselves with an extra gallon of milk begging to be turned into fresh ricotta. Remember the book, “If you give a mouse a cookie?” Well, if you give Czech women fresh homemade ricotta, they will certainly find a way to use it in something sweet and springy. Kristen added to my original lemon ricotta poundcake recipe by suggesting candied lemon slices and I must say, it elevated this cake to a whole new high. You’ll see. And since I know you’re curious, the remainder of the ricotta went in blueberry pancakes the next morning.
While I would do anything in my power to take away the pain of so many during this time, I’m doing what I know how to do: making lemon pound cake out of lemons.
Scroll on for the recipe for Betty Lou’s lemon ricotta poundcake…
This post was originally published on May 8, 2020, and has since been updated.
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- ½ cup butter room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 small to medium eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup ricotta (store-bought or homemade - see below)
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp almond extract
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- Zest from one lemon
- 1 ½ cup flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
for the topping:
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp almond extract
for the candied lemon slices:
- 1 lemon thinly sliced and seeded
- 1/2 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl and add ricotta, lemon juice, zest and extracts. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet mixture. Blend until smooth and pour into loaf pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from pan and cook on a cooking rack.
- While cake cools make Candied Lemon Slices. Heat sugar and water and lemon juice in a 9” skillet until sugar is incorporated. Add lemon slices and cook over low heat until liquid is cooked down to a thick syrup and lemons are tender. This takes about 20 minutes depending on heat. You don’t want lemons to brown so check on them and flip if necessary. Remove and place on parchment paper.
- Combine topping ingredients and mix well. Spread glaze over cooled cake and top with candied lemon slices.
- 1 gallon whole milk
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- you will also need: cheesecloth, a colander, and a large stock pot
- In a large stock pot slowly bring 1 gallon of milk to a boil. Be patient with the process as you don’t want to scald the milk which will affect the flavor. When milk comes to a boil, add the vinegar (or vinegar and lemon juice) and stir until incorporated. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes while curds form. Line a colander with cheese cloth and pour mixture through the cloth lined strainer.
- Allow to drip to desired consistency. For the pound cake, you don’t want to dry it out too much which takes away from a creamy texture.
*notes from Betty Lou: When making ricotta for the pound cake, I like substituting ½ of the cider vinegar with lemon juice. Be sure and cool the ricotta completely before adding to the pound cake.
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As I shelter at home in New York City at the epicenter of this outbreak and a continent away from my parents in Arizona, this beautiful essay made me ache with longing to be baking with my mom, too—something we did together for as long as I can remember. Like so many of us, I have returned to baking during this time as a kind of therapy, and have gravitated especially to recipes that I have from my mom and remember making together. I don’t know when I will be able to hug her tight again, but baking goodies that literally taste like home has helped me feel closer to her in the meantime. Thank you for this and for this scrumptious-looking recipe!
Thank you for this, Sara Beth — I too associate baking so strongly with my mother. When anyone asks me how I learned to cook, I can’t really put into words how it was really just about watching her and being with her in the kitchen. I love that you’re finding some solace in baking during this time. Sending hugs to NYC!
Hey there! I’m trying your recipe at the moment and I believe it’s a typo in your directions. At the end of No. 1 you have, “ Cool slightly, remove from pan and cook on a cooking rack.” In what I can only imagine it’s supposed to say, “cool on a cooling rack”. It’s in the oven now but I’m excited to give it a taste. I’m baking at work on a ship so no almond extract right now and our commercial electric range is borderline useless for low temps for making the candied lemon slices but I’m managing. ?
Sounds like you are doing awesome – can’t wait to hear how it turns out! Yep, cool on a cooling rack is correct. Keep us posted. 🙂
Just wanted to follow up, since I’m baking these again soon at work again. The cake came out fantastic! The candies lemons…not so much. Honestly the cake carries itself just fine without them. Thanks for the recipe.
I have some whole milk ricotta left over from gnocchi I made – can I sub for the homemade version in this recipe? Would love to try both the store bought and homemade ricotta options in this recipe but figured I’d clear out my fridge and pantry first 🙂
Absolutely, store bought will work great.
Beautifully written! I can’t wait to try the recipe this weekend.
You definitely had me missing my mom. Since the March, I’ve only been able to see her once since we’re isolating separately.
It’s so hard… I feel like so many of us will appreciate time with our parents and relatives in a whole new way after this. So glad you enjoyed this piece, and let us know how the recipe goes!
I made this yesterday and it’s already all gone. Gobbled up by my whole family! My husband and kids said it’s the best cake they’ve ever had! I am already looking forward to the next time I make this cake! So, so yum! Thank you!
I’m so glad you loved it, Bree! One of my new faves, too…
Love this light lemon pound cake. The almond extract and the ricotta make the difference.
Could not agree more… my mom turned me on to the beauty of lemon + almond flavors together, and the homemade ricotta takes it to the next level. So glad you loved, Nadine!
Getting ready to make this again for Father’s Day. I used store bought ricotta and did not do the candied lemons and it’s still my family’s favorite new cake!
I was so excited to make this and finally did yesterday. OMG! It’s delicious!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Turned out perfect! The candied lemons are a real treat. Wish I could upload my picture, it’s really beautiful. My daughter and I are sharing a sweet moment before we go off to our rooms for remote school and work.
This recipe was delicious! My loafs didn’t rise as much as yours appeared to I wonder if I used a different ricotta texture or if I beat it too long? It’s definitely a keeper much better then my poppy seed loaf recipe! I could just add poppy seeds to this batter moist and delicious? Longmont Tree Company
I absolutely love this cake! It is my moms new favorite dessert! I have a question, could I double this recipe and place it in a Bundt tin? I’m need to baking and I don’t know if that will work. Thank you!
Yes absolutely! You can probably do 1.5 times the recipe, or double it, but pour the extra batter into muffin tins! 🙂
Sweet friend! I cannot wait to make this later today!
Looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it.