Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: Birthday Meatloaf & Chocolate Almond Layer Cake with Ricotta Filling

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Birthday Meatloaf & Chocolate Almond Layer Cake with Ricotta Filling

Today is my birthday!  Our family tradition is that the birthday girl/boy gets to choose their dinner and cake.   Let me just tell you...I'm not good with choices. I pondered for weeks over which chocolate cake recipe to make.  As for the filling; that was another laboring decision. I finally decided to do a chocolate almond cake with a ricotta cheese filling and chocolate butter cream frosting.

So when it came to dinner I thought I'd just let my husband pick that one. We have very similar tastes in food so I didn't think it was a big deal.  Then he told me we were going to have meatloaf.  Don't get me wrong...I love meatloaf; but for my birthday dinner....really??? 

Well this might be my go to birthday dinner for years to come.  The meatloaf was just that good. I know it sounds weird for me to be describing a meatloaf like this.  But this was no ordinary dry, lifeless lump of meat. It was moist a moist gooey mixture of two different kinds of meat and 3 different cheeses.  All topped with tomato sauce.

I would suggest giving this recipe a try; even if you normally don't eat meatloaf.  I'm not sure how anyone could not like this one.  We served the meatloaf with sauteed broccolini and gnocchi with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.

Italian Meatloaf
(adapted from Lidia Bastianch)

1 cup milk
3 cups day-old bread, cubed, from a loaf of country bread
3 pounds ground beef
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 pound fresh ricotta
½ cup Grano Padano, grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups of home made tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk over the bread cubes in a bowl, and let soak for a few minutes, until the bread is saturated. Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can (discard milk), then tear bread into small shreds and toss back into the bowl. Crumble the ground beef into the bowl, and add the eggs, ricotta, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Fold and toss everything together, and squeeze the mixture a few times between your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Scatter the mozzarella cubes on top, and fold and mush them throughout the loaf mix.

Brush a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gather the meat mixture in the bowl, turn it into the pan, and shape it into a fat oval loaf. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pan with foil and bake 45 minutes.

Remove the foil, and continue to bake until the meatloaf is browned all over and completely cooked through, another 1 hour and 30 minutes or so. Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan as the meat rests.  Cut the loaf in slices as thick as you like. Serve on warm dinner plates, topped with a spoonful or two of sauce, and pass more sauce at the table

Chocolate Almond Layer Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, almond and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Cannoli Filling

3/4 lb ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip together until smooth; adding more sugar is filling is too thin.


  1. Happy birthday love! Between the two of these recipes, I'd say you had a birthday fit for a queen! I will definitely be making that ricotta filling..yum.

  2. You had me at chocolate almond layer cake! 2 of my favorite flavors in one cake? I'm there! Happy Birthday!

  3. Happy Birthday! I'm so glad you enjoyed the meatloaf. I have never been a huge fan, but I should try this one. Perhaps it will change my mind.

  4. Happy Birthday!!! Great birthday dinner choice!

  5. Happy Birthday! I'm a meatloaf and a chocolate cake fan! Love them both!

  6. I love this cake wow chocolate and that filling just amazing looking I am truly drooling here!!! Thanks for you visit! :)

  7. Happy Birthday! I wish I could have joined the celebration! Thank you for sharing two delicious and decadent recipes. They are fit for a birthday queen! Love from Austin!

  8. I don't think it's strange to have meatloaf for a birthday meal. Meatloaf can be delicious - as this one obviously is. But I confess that chocolate cake really tips the scales as a great birthday dessert. Happy Belated Birthday.

  9. Happt belated birthday - another June baby! (me too) Your cake looks good and I feel the birthday person should always choose the meal :-)

  10. Happy Belated Birthday! Both the meatloaf and cake look delicious! I woud love a slice of that chocolate almond layer cake with my tea :)

  11. That's a pretty amazing looking meatloaf! I love serving it with gnocchi too.

    And the cake! Wow!

  12. At first I thought this said "chocolate meatloaf!". I shouldn't read blogs after midnight.

  13. Oh my goodness. My birthday is in about a month and I think this is what I want to make! I haven't had luck making GF gnocchi, but I can make a pretty mean pasta and risotto.

    Personally, I would take a chocolate meatloaf ;)

    Erika K

    Cuisinart 14 cup food processor