Ciambella is an Italian coffee cake that is usually lemony and a cross between a pound cake and a shortcake, as in strawberry shortcake. Easy to make, delicious for breakfast with coffee, and I even like it in a bowl with milk and berries.
Ciambella means life saver, and it is made in the shape of a giant donut. I made it this way the first time and then liked the texture so much for one of my favorite desserts, strawberry shortcake. I have one of those pans that makes the cute shortcake bowl and made a half recipe to make six individual cakes. The recipe calls for lemon zest and I used orange zest the first time and meyer lemon zest the second. Both give a great flavor.
Marcella remarks in her book that this cake is even better the second day and I agree. The citrus flavor has settled in. I like that this cake stays together with very little crumb and can take the moisture of fruit.
Our Cooking Italy group had a discussion about the dryness of the batter and difficulty rolling it out to a long roll in order to make the circle prior to baking. I found an increase in warm milk necessary and took it from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. My suggestion is to start at 1/4 cup and keep adding until you feel the batter is right, but no more than 1 cup of milk. Then flour the batter and it should roll out quite easily. This is really an easy cake to make, but is a bit unorthodox in that you knead it on the counter for a minute or so although it’s not a yeast bread; it’s really a quick bread. This large size will probably give you 12-16 servings.
I thought the cake reminded me of shortcake and I took out my pan that makes short cake shapes and did a half recipe, which made six servings. I cut the top off (you can see top left) and then it sits flat. Fill with fruit and put the cap back on.
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- zest of one lemon
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch salt
- 3/4-1 cup of warm milk
- 2 eggs, reserving 1 t of egg white for wash
- Preheat oven to 375
- Heavy baking sheet
- Butter and flour for baking sheet (or use a baking stone as I did)
- Melt butter in microwave, to warm, but not hot.
- Mix zest into sugar with your fingers.
- Add dry ingredients including sugar into large bowl.
- Add milk. Add eggs. Mix together. If too dry, add up to 1 cup total of warm milk.
The original recipe calls for only 1/4 cup of warm milk. Start with that and add more as needed. I used between 3/4 and 1 cup in each recipe.
To make ciambella as a coffee cake: Batter is sticky, place on floured board, add flour as needed, roll into large sausage shape and make into a circle. Use egg white mixed with a t of water to brush on cake before baking. Place on baking sheet or baking stone for 35 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.
To make shortcakes: You can use a shortcake pan or muffin tin. Full recipe makes 12. Cut in half, stuff fruit and whipped cream. It’s also nice to add in a little milk. The density and crumb of this cake can handle it (or ice cream).