Last updated on February 8th, 2024.

This delicious Italian Hangover Cake is a delightful treat slightly different from most traditional Italian desserts you may know. It’s a fluffy cake loaded with orange zest and soaked with quite unusual syrup, giving it a boozy flavor and making it the Italian version of the famous rum cake.

For classic Italian desserts, check out this Torta Caprese, and this Torta Della Nonna.

sliced italian hangover cake

What is Italian Hangover Cake

This recipe is a copycat cake to the popular dessert at Defazio’s pizzeria located in New York. The delicious cake is a boozy version of the original recipe of traditional Italian cake, AKA Ciambellone, a simple cake with simple ingredients.

Instead of lemon zest and lemon juice, this recipe uses orange and is soaked with alcoholic sweet syrup, and by alcoholic, I mean a generous portion of Cointreau (orange liquor), Amaretto (Almond Liquor), and vodka. But worry not; there is also a non-alcoholic version.

As for the name of the cake… I would guess that you’re either gonna get a hangover after you eat it, or you’ll eat it to get over your hangover after a wild night of partying. 

To turn this moist cake into a decadent dessert, top it with Italian Pastry Cream or homemade whipped cream. If you can’t get enough orange flavor, check out my Orange Cream Cheese Cake and this Orange Chocolate Cake.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • All-purpose flour. For gluten-free alternatives, use 1:1 gluten-free flour.
  • Baking powder
  • Granulated sugar
  • Medium orange. We will zest the orange and use its juice.
  • Unsalted softened butter
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Large Eggs at room temperature
  • Milk. Whole or skim, at room temperature.
  • Cointreau. Or, Grand Marnier. It’s optional. You can replace it with two teaspoons of vanilla extract. The liquor adds another layer of flavor, like in this Gin Chocolate Cake.

For the Soak Syrup

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Cointreau
  • Amaretto
  • Vodka
ingredients to make hangover cake

How to Make Italian Hangover Cake

Make the syrup

  1. Place the sugar, water, and alcohol in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Once the sugar has dissolved and the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes while stirring.
  3. Remove from heat, pour into a large measuring cup, or refrigerate in an airtight container.

Make The Cake

  1. Zest the orange and squeeze the juice. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking powder. Mix the milk, orange juice, and Cointreau in a separate measuring cup.
  2. Place the sugar and orange zest in a bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl and use a fork to rub the zest into the sugar.
  3. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the oil.
  4. With the mixer on medium-high, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Reduce speed to low, then add the dry ingredients, alternating with the wet ingredients in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  6. Pour the cake batter into your prepared bundt pan and bake.
how to make hangover cake
cake batter in a mixer bowl and a bundt pan

Soaking the cake

  1. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the cold syrup over the warm cake.
  2. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then invert the cake over a wire rack or serving plate.
soaking baked cake
orange cake on a rack wire

Tips

  • For the cake to absorb the syrup, make sure the cake and the syrup are in opposite temperature. One has to be warm, while the other should be cold. So plan ahead. (I started with the syrup and refrigerated it until the cake was ready) 
  • Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature. 
  • The alcohol flavor comes from the syrup and mostly from the Vodka, which is yours to manipulate. For the alcohol-free cake, skip the alcohol; you can replace it with orange juice or milk. You can also dust the cake with powdered sugar, drizzle orange glaze, or even Chocolate Ganache.
  • To master pound cake, check out my Tips For The Perfect Pound Cake post.

Storage

Hangover Cake is best enjoyed fresh and should be covered at room temperature for up to three days. To freeze, gently wrap the cake in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, place it in a bag, and freeze for up to four weeks.

FAQ

Can I make an Italian Hangover Cake without the liquor?

 Absolutely! The liqueur adds an extra depth of flavor, but you can omit it or substitute it with milk or orange juice. 

What pans can I bake this cake in?

Any 10-cup bundt pan, loaf pan, or tube pan are all great options. Just remember not to fill it over 3/4 full. 

a slice of orange cake soaked in liquor syrup.

More Cake Recipes You Might Enjoy

Maple Cake, Jewish Apple Cake, Almond Cake

Don’t forget to tag @OneSarcasticBaker on Instagram whenever you bake this recipe. I would love to see your creations!

italian hang over cake recipe
5 from 1 vote
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Italian Hang Over Cake Recipe

Moist and tender orange-flavored cake soaked in liquor syrup

Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword italian hangover cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Servings 15 slices
Author Dikla

Ingredients

For The Soak Syrup

  • 1 1/2 Cups Water (360ml)
  • 1 Cup Sugar (200g)
  • 1/4 Cup Coitreau (orange liquor) (60ml)
  • 1/4 Cup Amaretto (Almond liquor) (60ml)
  • 1/4 Cup Vodka (60ml)

For the cake

  • 3 Cups All-purpose flour (360g)
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking powder
  • 1 3/4 Cups Sugar (350g)
  • 1 Medium Orange
  • 3/4 Cup Milk at room temperature (180ml)
  • 2 Tablespooms Cointreau
  • 1 Cup Unsalted butter at room temperature (225g)
  • 1/2 Cup Olive oil (or canola) (120ml)
  • 4 Large Eggs, at room temperature

Instructions

Make The Soak Syrup

  1. Place the water, sugar, Cointreau, Amaretto, and vodka in a medium saucepan and place over the stovetops.

  2. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes while stirring occasionally.

  4. Remove from heat, pour into a large measuring cup, and refrigerate while you make the cake.

Make The Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a ten-cup bundt pan.

  2. Zest and squeeze the orange. Mix the juice with the milk and Cointreau. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.

  3. Rub the orange zest into the sugar.

  4. Using a stand mixer, or an electric mixer, beat the butter and orange sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

  5. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly drizzle in the oil.

  6. Add the eggs, one egg at a time, waiting for each egg to completely incorporate before adding the next. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

  7. Reduce speed to low, then add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

  8. Bake over the medium oven rack for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out from the center of the cake with a few moist crumbs.

  9. Remove from the oven, then immediately soak the cake with the now chilled syrup.

  10. Allow the cake to cook in the pan for 25-30 minutes, then invert it over a wire rack or a serving plate.

Recipe Notes

  • Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature.
  • Store the cake at room temperature, covered for up to three days.
  • To freeze, gently wrap the cool cake with plastic wrap, place it in a plastic bag, and freeze for up to four weeks.
  • For alcohol-free cakes, replace the liquors with orange juice. Or, replace the syrup with a dust of powdered sugar, a drizzle of ganache, or a citrusy glaze.
  • For the cake to soak in the syrup, it needs to be at the opposite temperature of the syrup (warm cake, cold syrup), so plan ahead.
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