This Brown Sugar Cake Should Be Your Go-To Summer Dessert

Dessert in the summer should be a simple affair. Whether it’s a no-bake beauty, a quick fruit salad or just a big scoop of ice cream, it should be as easy to whip up as it is easy to eat. That’s why when we saw Top Chef season 15 winner Joe Flamm’s brown sugar cake with ricotta and blueberries, we immediately welcomed it into our canon of go-to summer desserts.

As if you needed any more convincing than the words “brown sugar cake” plus “ricotta” and “blueberries,” this is the very dessert that Flamm made to carry home the championship.

A year after he made it at the 2017 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, it’s the perfect time to look back, and look ahead to a summer’s worth of no-brainer dessert.

Flamm spoke to Food & Wine for the July issue to tell us a little more about this winning recipe, which he calls his torta di nonna. No, it’s not actually a recipe from his grandmother, but it sure tastes like it could be. “The late pastry chef Todd Kunkleman made the brown sugar cake on his first day at Girl and the Goat,” writes Food & Wine executive editor Karen Shimizu.

Flamm’s loved it ever since, and when he was gearing up to go film Top Chef, he practiced this cake to keep in his back pocket. After all… “The flavor profile is like a really nice pair of pants. You can dress it up, you can dress it down. I knew it would come in handy,” Flamm tells Food & Wine. 

It’s basically like a giant blondie, Food & Wine senior food editor Mary-Frances Heck says while singing the cake’s praises. You can eat it as is, or with the excellent ricotta mousse and blueberry sauce.

What makes this cake a winner is that it’s cheffy—meaning it’s not too sweet—but it’s actually very simple, Heck explains.

Each component is easy and versatile.

The blueberry sauce is a great formula for any berries: You simply cook down half of the berries with sugar, lemon juice, thyme for about 10 minutes. Then, after letting the mixture cool and discarding any thyme sprigs, you put it in the food processor. Next, you fold in the rest of the blueberries and you’ve got a versatile sauce to spoon over the cake, or anything you like, from yogurt to ice cream.

The ricotta mousse is similarly stress-free and functional. All you do is mix ricotta, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor, and you’ve got a silky spread that’s good on just about everything, including a plain old spoon.

So, if you’re looking for a dessert to rely on all summer long, look no further. Just don’t try making it at 11,000 feet above sea level without knowing a thing or two about baking at high altitude first. Flamm had to try three times to get the cake right for the finale—but you know how the story ends.

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