Cake · Ice Cream

Orange Ricotta Semifreddo Cake with Pistachios

Happy Pi day! I know I know, this is not a pie, BUT it’s downright delightful and refreshing. # 165: Pistachio Orange Ricotta Semifreddo Cake

This was one of those bakes where my impatience got to me. Waiting over 6 hours for a solid semifreddo?! C’mon. So the pictures are a little messy and melty, but I had so much fun making (and eating) it that I wanted to share it anyway.

I had a version of this at Chez Panisse when we went for my dad’s birthday lunch. It was on a vanilla sponge base and had pistachios and candied kumquats in the semifreddo. It was so light and airy, yet creamy and rich, I just had to try making it myself.

A semifreddo is essentially a mousse-like custard that’s been frozen. It’s a close cousin of ice cream, but it’s much less dense and there’s no churning involved in making it. The word is Italian for “half-cold” and it’s softer texture is due to the use of whipped cream. All the tiny air pockets in the whipped clouds of cream allow for an airy, soft texture in the finished product. It’s normally served in slices, so it needs to be just cold enough to hold it’s shape on a plate.

When it includes ricotta and is served on top of cake, it comes closer to a cassata. A cassata is typically a layer cake with a filling that’s reminiscent of a cannoli – sweet and creamy with some savory depth from the ricotta cheese. I absolutely adore cannoli filling and will attempt to incorporate it into any dessert possible. Hence, the semifreddo/cassata combo cake.

Have you ever had cara cara oranges? A magical hybrid of orange and grapefruit, they’re sweet and tart with a pretty pink interior. Regular navel oranges are too sweet for me normally and grapefruits are wayy too sour, so this is honestly my perfect citrus. I mixed in a blood orange too for a deeper pink color.

The ricotta is more textured and nobody wants a lumpy semifreddo, so I got to whip out my adorable blue immersion blender! Worked like a charm. 

And of course, PISTACHIOS. I will forever have a stash of these little green gems in the freezer for impromptu bakes. Love the texture and salt they bring to desserts.

Love the lil orange zest freckles. Mix it all together and freeze in whatever mold or pan strikes your fancy! I cringed at the use of plastic wrap but it I washed it and plan to reuse it once or twice to make it worth it.

While it’s taking a nap in the freezer, make yo self a sponge cake.

I love a good chocolate and orange combo so I chose to make cocoa sponge. Feelin’ sifty!

Make sure the eggs get really light and fluffy. They go from a lovely golden color to . . .

A pastel yellow cloud.

Chose to bake it up in a smaller pan so it would be really tall. I wanted an even amount of cake and semifreddo, but it’s super easy to bake it in a bigger pan and get a thinner cake.

Yessss love to see those air bubbles.

Cut the cake to fit your semifreddo pan and cross your fingers.

Remember that it’ll be delicious even if it’s mush.

Not too bad! Sort of holding it’s shape despite being pulled out of the freezer two hours early.

Andddd it didn’t hold up for more than 15 minutes. Better get your spoons ready!

Happy munching!

Cake recipe from:

Semifreddo recipe from:

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