Ciambella sounds like ‘ciao, bella!’ Or is it just me? Anyway – it’s fine to eat cake for breakfast. When in Rome…
Roman breakfast cake
When I offered a slice of this cake to Alice and Mouse, explaining it was a Roman breakfast cake, they were awed. ‘How did you even find a Roman recipe?’ asked Mouse. ‘Did they have icing sugar back then?’ enquired Alice.
Roman - or Roman?
‘Roman’ seems to prompt first thought of the ancients and only then, with disappointment we realise it can also refer to the modern era of The Eternal City. I didn’t blame them in the slightest – I have long thought that Roman Holiday, one my mother’s favourite movies, was a costume drama. O tempora, o mores, o whatever.
So what's this Italian breakfast cake like?
Once we clarified the age of the recipe, they enjoyed the cake very much. And rightly so – it’s light and spongy, and airy and fragrant with the lemon and only just the right amount of berries studded in the crumb here and there. And both Alice and I were pleased to be reassured in our long-held belief that having cake for breakfast is perfectly proper.
It's a ciambella!
I found Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in NYTimes Cooking but as she admitted, it was her interpretation of cake she’d had for breakfast in Rome. I have since established that she meant ciambella or ciambellone, Italian ring-shaped cake, customarily served in Rome (as in now, modern times) for colazione.
Ciambella is baked in ring tins, flavoured with lemon or orange, with occasional berries but the Italians make short shrift of Dorie’s separated eggs, beaten meringue and delicate folding. They beat whole eggs together with the rest of the ingredients, presto, pronto.
I like a little faff in cake making though, or being grown up about my cake as The Weather Man puts it, so I followed Dorie’s instruction – cutting down sugar almost by half.
Breakfast cake - not too sweet
Whatever you, I or Alice will say, cake for breakfast is all right but not if it’s too sickly sweet. Dry cake, pound cake, sponge cake but hardly chocolate eclairs or Black Forest gateau – those firmly belong with the sun over the yardarm. So Dorie’s original 300g of sugar was an overkill.
Roman cake - it's a ring tin
The cake is gorrrgeous – but for a caveat. It might be my tin (aluminium, decent quality) or my oven (I doubt it! *angry frown*) but the first time I baked and unmoulded it, it was barely baked on the outside – the batter closest to the tin was still tacky. I since tweaked the baking time to allow the sides to bake but hence the weird instruction to poke at the side of the tin to check, rather than the middle.
You could even gently run a palette knife down the side, like you were loosening it up to turn out, to check if it comes out dry. Otherwise – no alternative but grab the blowtorch! Just kidding, but there’s a thought.