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Orange ciambella

Fri, 8 January, 2021

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.

orange ciambella

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.

italian olive oil ring cake

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.

ciambella breakfast cake

Sticky business

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.

italian orange doughnut cake

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.

orange flavoured ciambella

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.

orange ciambella with dark chocolate glaze

Baking ciambella

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.

Orange ciambella

Servings: 16-18Time: 1 hour 15 minutes plus cooling and glazing


  • For the cake:
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 160g (34 cup) caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • zest grated from 3 large oranges
  • 130g (23 cup) olive oil
  • 50ml (4 tbsp.) whole milk
  • 350g (3 cups minus 1 tbsp.) flour type Italian 00 or plain
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • For the glaze:
  • 40g (3 tbsp.) double cream
  • 25g (112 tbsp.) dark chocolate chips or pieces
  • 1 tsp butter
  • a handful of raw cocoa nibs, to decorate (optional)


1. Butter and flour a 24cm/10 in ring tin. Preheat the oven to 150C fan, if available/170C convection/325F/gas 3.

2. Place the eggs (at room temperature) in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer with the balloon whisk attachment (with handheld mixer use standard whisks). Add the sugar and beat at high speed for about 7-10 minutes until tripled in volume, turn pale and very airy. Beat in the orange zest.

3. Keep beating and add the olive oil in a thin steady stream. Beat till absorbed. Add the milk in the same way.

ciambella batter

4. Stir the baking powder into the flour. Turn the speed down a little and start adding the flour mix by a tablespoonful. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula every now and then.

5. When the flour is absorbed and the batter is smooth – it will deflate quite a bit - pour it into the prepared tin. Smooth and level off the surface with a spatula.

6. Bake for 40-50 minutes on the middle rack until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave the ciambella in for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.

ciambella baked in ring tin

7. Run the palette knife alongside the tin to loosen ciambella up and invert it onto a wire rack if it’s still warm, or a plate if completely cold.

8. To make the glaze, bring the cream to the boil in a small pan or in the microwave. Immediately add the chocolate chips and butter and stir vigorously until the chocolate melts.

9. Paint the glaze onto the cake with a pastry brush for a rustic look or simply spread it all over the cake. Sprinkle cocoa nibs on top if using and leave to set before serving.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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