Summer’s wild huckleberry harvest was especially plentiful this year, thanks to a record growing season kicked off by winter rains that quenched Northern California’s drought-stressed hills. Those who reaped the rewards of nature’s windfall in August and September now have a precious stockpile in the freezer (and even if you didn’t, you can still make this recipe . . . so stay with me!)
Foraging for huckleberries has become a treasured annual tradition with my friend Elizabeth. We rise early and hit the trail to escape the late summer heat. For us, it’s almost as much about socializing as it is about the berries.
The tedious process of collecting our tiny blue bounty goes much quicker with good company and conversation. We hike until we find adjacent bushes, then set to work filling our buckets as we catch up on each other’s lives. Time passes and before we know it, we each have enough berries to make our favorite recipes.
Earlier this summer, I wrote a feature piece for Edible Marin & Wine Country on wild huckleberry foraging that included Elizabeth’s grandmother’s yummy Huckleberry Tart recipe. Turns out that isn’t the only huckleberry recipe Elizabeth had up her sleeve.
Her fabulous Huckleberry Ricotta Cake runs neck-and-neck with the tart. I’d be hard pressed to declare one the winner over the other. They are both THAT good!
Because I like to play with my food, I tweaked her original recipe to make it gluten-free. The ricotta cheese you use for this dessert must be first rate quality. For me, you can’t go wrong with locally made cow or sheeps milk basket ricotta from Bellwether Farms. It’s simply the best out there (you can find it at Whole Foods Market and other fine grocers). Lastly, I incorporated lemon zest which adds a citrusy note that compliments the berries. Note: You can omit the zest if you prefer; the cake will be awesome either way.
If you don’t have huckleberries, you can use peaches, pears or other berry varietals (frozen or fresh) with equally delicious results!
Elizabeth’s Huckleberry Ricotta Cake (Gluten-free version)
Printable recipe: Gluten-Free Huckleberry Ricotta Cake
- 12 oz. package of Bellwether Cow or Sheeps Milk Basket Ricotta (substitute fresh goat cheese or fromage blanc if desired for equally delicious results)
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (not legume based)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 2 cups huckleberries (peaches, pears or other berries also work beautifully in this recipe)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter a springform pan (note: a 10″ pan will bake faster. Bake longer if using an 8″ or 9″ pan).
3. In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. Set aside.
4. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
5. Fold in the melted butter.
6. Fold half of the fruit into the batter. Pour batter into the springform pan and spread evenly (the batter will be thick!)
7. Artfully arrange the remaining fruit over the top and gently press into the batter.
8. Bake for about an hour on center oven rack. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Release the springform ring.
Slice and enjoy topped with crème fraîche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!