It is my friend Emily’s graduation tomorrow, and I wanted to make a cake fit the newly crowned Doctor to mark this occasion. Emily loves ricotta cheesecakes, and both of us share a love of lavender. I wanted to bring these two together, for the delicate floral taste of lavender to dance in the light creaminess of the ricotta. Given that ricotta cheesecakes don’t typically contain any liquids, this required some thought. But honey provided the perfect thick gooey liquid to carry the lavender through this cake. I wanted a touch of some tart and sour to balance the rich, creamy, sweet flavours, and spotted the most beautiful ruby coloured rhubarb, which I love using with lavender, so it was settled. The lavender in this dish is from my garden, and the thyme I used to decorate it was from my mama’s garden.
1kg firm ricotta
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 lemon, finely grated rind
60g icing sugar
1 generous handful of lavender buds
200g plain flour
60g icing sugar
120g cold butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 stems of rhubarb
Some caster sugar
For the hazelnut pastry, coarsely chop the hazelnuts in a food processor, followed by the flour and icing sugar. Once combined, add the butter, and then the egg. Allow this mixture to rest, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, to make the lavender honey, simmer the honey and lavender in a saucepan for about 5-10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the honey doesn’t burn. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C. In a round, lined baking tin, line the base with the hazelnut pastry, about 4mm thick. Prick the pastry with a fork, and bake for approximately 10 minutes, until lightly golden.
In a mixer, on a light to medium speed, mix the ricotta and mascarpone for approximately 5 minutes until combined and smooth. Add the icing sugar, and mix until combined. Then add the vanilla bean, lemon rind, cinnamon, followed by the eggs. On a low speed, mix for another 5 minutes until well combined and creamy. Finally, add the honey, and mix for another 3-5 minutes.
Pour the mixture over the hazelnut pastry. Bake for approximately 1-1.5 hours, until golden and set. Once the tort has cooled, refrigerate for at least a few hours.
For the rhubarb, on a lined oven tin, place the rhubarb, and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, keeping a close watch to make sure the rhubarb doesn’t overcook. It should be soft, but hold it’s shape.
To serve, spoon the remaining honey over the top, and arrange the rhubarb. Sprinkle some extra lavender buds and hazelnuts over the top, and some fresh thyme.