Is it when the house is finally decorated?
Is it when the first presents get purchased or the first cards arrive?
Or how about when the first holiday commercials make their way to your TV (oh my gosh please tell me you replay that Pier 1 commercial on You Tube as much as I do)?
Or when the first taste of Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha or Gingerbread Latte hits the lips?
For me, it's when the candles go up in our windows. It's when I set the table with the holly runner given to me with best housewarming wishes by my Mom a few years ago. And, mainly, it's when the family first gathers to celebrate Christmas with those we may not see on Christmas. To me, that makes it official.
This weekend we gathered at my parents' house for a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner, and it was a full house. With siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, spouses, and boyfriends present, the house felt full and warm as we celebrated the start of the season. And I've never felt more blessed and at peace than I do this Christmas. Not bad for December 10th. Not bad at all.
So let's talk about Christmas dessert. Do you have a favorite? An old standby? Multiple old standbys? Well, this year you'll have to make room on your holiday table because this orange ricotta pound cake is going to be the perfect new addition.
Orange Ricotta Pound Cake
Recipe courtesy of Alexandra's Kitchen, by way of Giada DeLaurentiis
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 c whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c plus 1 tbs granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 tbs Cointreau or amaretto
Confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan with cooking spray, and then line it with parchment paper and spray again. Use enough so that the paper extends over the sides of the pan. This will make for really easy cake removal!
Using a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer, combine the butter, ricotta and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running or your hand-held mixer going, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, zest, and alcohol until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with the Confectioner's sugar to serve if desired.