Doughnut for breakfast – sounds like a classic cop movie cliché! But this is an Italian ring cake, so buttery you wouldn’t believe it’s made with olive oil instead.
Ciambella is also known as doughnut cake, Italian breakfast cake or ring cake. Flavoured with lemon or orange, glazed or iced, it has the smoothest, tenderest buttery crumb. Which wouldn’t be at all surprising if not for the fact it has no butter in it but only olive oil.
There is another, similar recipe I like for ciambella with summer berries. A little more elaborate and a bit less authentic, it’s gorgeous nevertheless. This ciambella recipe comes from Giallo Zafferano, the Italian website I respect, which lets me down only occasionally.
Butter versions of ciambella obviously exist but those taste a little too much like an ordinary pound cake with a hole in the middle. And I definitely like my Italian recipes to be distinctive.
The tin is the key
Perhaps you’re a dab hand at Bundt cakes or perhaps you have a super-tin procured from some obscure, niche supplier exclusive to professional ciambellists. I’m not and I don’t – my relationship with Bundt tins of which I have two is seriously the love-hate kind.
However thoroughly I butter and flour my Bundt tin, it invariably greedily claims the top portion of the cake as its own. You wouldn’t know (I hope!), but some of my Bundt or ring cakes on CuisineFiend have had to be reassembled to pose for photography.
If you have to scrape the top of the cake to plaster it back onto the base it doesn’t harm its taste, as long as the cake is properly baked. The looks of it are ruined though and need remedial surgery before the shooting session. And no, of course I’m not going to say which of my cakes had to get that treatment.
Ciambella, orange and chocolate
In this instance I’m proud to present pre-glazed pictures and point out the full emergence of my ciambella from the tin. Aside from a small crack at the bottom, it’s ring-perfect.
I admit it was not so perfect at the testing stage. Determined to succeed, this time I used half a pack of butter to grease the tin and it’s only a small exaggeration.
The cake can be glazed with a simple icing made from icing sugar beaten with orange juice but I think the rustic lick of dark chocolate painted over the cake works better – less sugar, and after all orange and chocolate is an excellent pairing.
How to make ciambella batter?
It’s a classic method of beating eggs with sugar, then adding the fats and/or liquids. The important thing is to add the latter in a thin steady stream.
If you haven’t got a standing mixer, you’ll need an additional pair of hands or a very sturdy bowl set on a damp tea towel on the worktop, so it doesn’t dance around while you’re juggling the handheld mixer and the oil container.
Baking will be a complete success if you pay attention to two things. First of all, the surface of the batter once in the tin needs to be smooth as it won’t settle and even out like some batters do. Lumpy goes into the oven, bumpy comes out.
The other thing is testing for bakedness at the end of the oven time. Counterintuitively, insert your skewer close to the outside of the tin. 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. The pesky Bundt bakes from the inside out, annoyingly.
Once baked, serve it for an indulgent breakfast or for dessert (with a pile of whipped cream on the side recommended). But by all means let it go a little stale – a toasted slice of ciambella is simply heavenly.