Last updated on January 9th, 2024.
The delightful aroma of freshly baked goods wafting through the air is a universal symbol of comfort and indulgence. In the realm of Italian baking, one such treat that embodies this experience is the Ciambellone. This scrumptious Italian Breakfast Cake is a beloved classic that graces tables across the country, bringing a sense of warmth and tradition to each slice.
What is Ciambellone Cake?
Ciambellone, literally translates to “big donut” in Italian, is a ring-shaped cake that holds a special place in Italian households, and let’s face it, nothing says ‘culinary creativity’ like naming your cake after a big donut in another language. This traditional Italian cake is often made on a Sunday morning and enjoyed as part of a leisurely breakfast, accompanied by a steaming cup of coffee or tea. The cake, made using simple ingredients, boasts a tender crumb and a subtle sweetness, making it the perfect cake for any time of day. Check out its alcoholic version in this Italian Hangover Cake.
The cake is a cross between a rich and buttery pound cake and a moist muffin, and as such, it is best plain, with no glaze or topping. But a dust of powdered sugar or a sprinkle of pearl sugar that will keep its firmness and provide some texture might be a good idea.
If you love this breakfast treat, check out my other breakfast pastries recipes like this Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Bread and this Lemon Blackberry Bread. And don’t miss out on some of my favorite Italian treats like Torta Caprese, Bombolini, and Rainbow Cookies.
Ciambellone vs. Ciambella
Before we dive into the recipe, it’s essential to clarify the distinction between Ciambellone and Ciambella. While both terms refer to ring-shaped cakes, Ciambellone is typically larger and denser, designed to be sliced and shared, especially during family gatherings or festive occasions. Ciambella, on the other hand, tends to be smaller, fluffier, and often served in individual portions.
To embark on your Ciambellone baking journey, gather the following ingredients:
- All-purpose flour. Using unbleached flour, bleached or cake flour will result in a dryer cake.
- Baking powder
- Milk at room temperature. Replace it with buttermilk, sour cream, or plant-based milk.
- Lemons. We will use the lemons to zest them and squeeze the juice. The lemon zest will provide flavor, while the lemon juice will contribute to the moist and tender texture of the cake.
- Sugar. Stick to granulated sugar; do not reduce the amount, or the cake will turn out dense and dry.
- Unsalted butter, soft
- Olive oil. Use the brand you love; replacing it with vegetable oil is ok.
- Eggs, at room temperature
How to make Ciambellone
This recipe can be made using a sand mixer, a large bowl, and a hand mixer.
- In a medium bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. In a measuring cup, mix the lemon juice and milk.
- Zest the lemons over the sugar and use a fork to rub the zest into the sugar.
- In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil and beat for about two more minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for each egg to completely incorporate before adding the next.
- Reduce speed to low, then add the dry ingredients alternating with the liquids.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake.
- For a citrusy twist, try using orange zest or lime zest instead of lemon. And don’t skip the zest; it is different from the juice. Lemon zest is the yellow part of the skin, and it is rich with lemon flavor, while the juice is mostly water and provides acidity to the recipe.
- Experiment with adding a handful of raisins or chopped nuts for extra texture. Another way to add a layer of flavor is with dried fennel seed or ground anise star.
- Dust the finished Ciambellone with powdered sugar for a decorative touch.
To keep your Ciambellone fresh, store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap the cake with plastic wrap, whole or in individual slices, place in a freeze bag, and freeze for up to one month.
While some substitutions are possible, be cautious with major alterations to maintain the cake’s texture and flavor.
Yes, Ciambellone is an excellent make-ahead option. Bake and cool the cake, then wrap it tightly before storing. Reheat slices in the oven or enjoy at room temperature.
Traditionally, a ring-shaped pan is used for this Ciambella recipe, but you can use any 10-12 cups bundt pan or two 8, 9-inch loaf pans.
More Cakes You Might Enjoy
Don’t forget to tag @OneSarcasticBaker on Instagram whenever you bake this recipe. Would love to see your creations!
Italian morning cake, with a hint of citrus
- 3 Cups All-purpose flour (360g)
- 1 Tablespoon Baking powder
- 3/4 Cup Milk, at room temperature (180ml)
- 2 Lemons
- 1 1/2 Cups Sugar (300g)
- 1 Cup Unsalted butter at room temperature (225g)
- 1/2 Cup Olive oil (100g)
- 4 Large Eggs, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and grease one ten cups ring pan, or bundt pan.
In a large bowl or a bowl of a standing mixer, measure the sugar and zest the lemons and use a fork to rub the zest into the sugar.
Squeeze the lemons with the milk and set aside. (The milk might curd when you add the lemon juice, but that's ok)
In a medium owl, measure and sift the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Add the butter to the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes.
Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for the egg to completely blend in before adding the next.
Scrap the bottom and sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternating with the milk mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour.
Once you have added the last portion of the flour, turn the mixer off, and use a rubber spatula to mix in any flour residues.
Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake over the middle oven rack for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs from the center of the cake.
- Before baking, carefully read the recipe, measure the ingredients, and allow them to reach room temperature.
- Consider using orange or lime zest instead of lemon zest for a zesty variation. Ensure not to omit the zest, as it differs from the juice; lemon zest, found in the yellow part of the skin, imparts rich lemon flavor, while the juice contributes primarily to the recipe’s acidity.
- Enhance the texture by incorporating a handful of raisins or chopped nuts. Another option for an additional flavor dimension is the inclusion of dried fennel seeds or ground star anise.
- Finish off the Ciambellone by dusting it with powdered sugar for a decorative touch.