These pancakes rise up fast, like little souffles, and are best eaten right away so make sure your family is ready and waiting with their plates. The cheese flavor is subtle, but present. Although they are delicious with syrup, I actually preferred mine plain, eaten with my fingers like a little flat cupcake. I think they would also be lovely with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar or maybe even a bit of orange blossom honey.
These pancakes get their incredible height and lightness from thickly beaten egg whites. To assure your whites stiffen perfectly, beat in a clean, cool metal bowl that has been wiped down with a cut lemon and then cleaned with a paper towel. This will get rid of any soap or oil residue left behind from previous uses.
Mash the sugar and orange zest together with the back of a spoon in a small bowl or on a cutting board. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the sugar-and-zest mixture and whisk to combine. Combine the ricotta, sour cream, heavy cream, orange juice and egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl. Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture and combine with a rubber spatula until just smooth; don't overmix.
Rub the 1/2 lemon over the inside of a chilled medium metal bowl, then wipe the bowl dry with a paper towel. Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gently fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, then add the remaining egg whites. Don't worry if there are slight streaks of egg whites in the batter. Heat a nonstick or cast-iron griddle and grease with 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour or ladle about 1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake, taking care to keep them evenly spaced apart. Cook until bubbles break the surface of the pancakes and the edges come together, about 2 minutes. Slip a spatula under each pancake, flip gently and cook until the edges come together and the pancake has risen, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary. Serve immediately. You can also add a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar or a drizzle of orange blossom honey, if desired.