SOFTEST Ciambella Italian Orange Cake!

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

This beautiful, classic Italian ring cake is all about wonderful fragrant, fresh citrus and a soft, velvety texture. If you love a strong citrus flavour, a light drizzle of icing and the softest, most tender textured cake please give this Ciambella cake a go. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Ciambella means ring so technically it's a ring cake although a classic Italian Ciambella cake is a plain cake made with olive oil served with coffee. It comes in a variety of flavours from chocolate, lemon, orange and vanilla. Confusingly, because it means ring, ciambella can also be a bread, doughnut or a cookie. Some people add yogurt, sour cream or ricotta in their ciambella cakes. Some beat the egg whites separately while others use butter instead of olive oil. Some pour syrup over the cake to keep it moist.

This recipe for Ciambella is a simple one using olive oil and doesn't need any special steps because I've got a special trick for this. It gets its incredible texture from the the orange juice whose acids help to break down gluten strands resulting in a more tender cake. When you activate gluten strands in flour through stirring with a liquid, cakes can end up tough but the acids break the gluten strands down. In this cake we added plenty of orange and lemon juice and zest to do this and that's all you need!

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Tips for making Ciambella Cake:

1 - This is a smaller cake that reached halfway up my bundt tin but it still had 8 serves. For these sorts of butter cakes that are best eaten fresh, I prefer making more petite ones especially as there are just the two of us in lockdown. You can of course double the quantities if you want a very large cake but also increase the baking time to 50-60 minutes.

2 - Make sure to grease your bundt tin well: I use a tablespoon/20g/0.7oz of melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon/8g/0.3oz of flour to form a brushable slurry that I make sure to brush into all the nooks of the bundt tin. Don't brush the mixture too thickly or it will show up in the detailing (although you can cover parts of it with the icing).

3 - Make sure to sift the flour well. I usually abhor sifting but in this case it's necessary. If there are still lumps in your cake batter, pass the mixture through a sieve and then allow the sieved, smooth mixture to rest for 5 minutes before pouring it into the cake tin. The 5 minute resting time allows the gluten strands to relax before baking but is also not too long because batters using baking powder should be used sooner rather than later.

4 - You can serve this cake with sweetened ricotta or cream. I don't feel like it needs this until it gets to the third day. It's beautiful as is for the first two days.

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

I made this cake with oranges because citrus is in season. Valentina gave me some beautiful citrus from her enormous trees and this included lemons, lemonade fruit, tangelos and oranges. We've been enjoying them juiced but I kept some aside for this cake. Oranges, and their sunny colour do make me happy in these glum wintry, COVID times. I loathe winter in a visceral way, summer is freer, easier and more social with sunshine that stretches out until 8pm. Winter and COVID is about burying yourself inside and being introverted which just isn't me. And the wind, don't get me started on how much I loathe wind.

Seriously, I have two enemies in the world: wind and the woman who keeps buying all the 711 cheese and bacon popcorn. I have an addiction to this savoury popcorn (notsponsored!) as it's the perfect sized, satisfying snack. One day I went in to buy some and there was none left. The man behind the counter chuckled and said, "Oh yeah there's another lady that loves the popcorn too. She bought all of it."

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Deprived of my favourite snack, she suddenly became my enemy. What did she look like? Was she similarly annoyed at me for buying the popcorn? What if she was my identical twin? I had so many questions about this mystery woman. I keep waiting to see if I'll ever bump into popcorn lady. Picture it: it's howling with wind outside and I make the bleak, cold trek to the 711. I reach out my hand to get the popcorn and she reaches to grab that last container of popcorn at the same time...

So tell me Dear Reader, who are your enemies? Have you ever tried ciambella cake?

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves: 8

  • 2 cups/300g/10.6ozs cake flour*

  • 15g/0.5oz baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 eggs, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup/165/5.8ozs. caster or superfine sugar

  • 3/4 cup/185ml/6.3flozs. extra virgin olive oil (mild)

  • 1 cup/250ml/8.8flozs orange juice

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

  • Zest of 3 oranges and 1 lemon

For icing

  • 160g/5.4ozs. icing or powdered sugar

  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice

*To make 1 cup of cake flour, take 1 cup of plain flour. Replace 2 tablespoons of plain flour with cornflour or fine cornstarch and whisk well until combined.

Step 1 - Grease your bundt tin - I use a tablespoon/20g/0.7oz of melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon/8g/0.3oz of flour to form a brushable slurry that I make sure to brush into all the nooks of the bundt tin. Preheat oven to 170C/338F.

Step 2 -Sift the cake flour and baking powder with salt in a large bowl and set aside. Place the eggs in a mixer bowl with a whisk attachment and whisk for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and whisk for 3 minutes. Then add the oil, orange juice, vanilla and zest and whisk again for 1 minute.

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Step 3 -Make a well in the bowl of flour and gradually mix the liquid mixture into the dry. I do this in about 6-8 lots making sure that the batter isn't overworked and that there aren't any lumps. If there are lumps, pass this batter through a sieve (you may lose some of the zest so add a bit more zest) and then rest the batter for 5 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared bundt tin and bake for 35 minutes until the centre of the cake ring bounces back when gently touched. Allow to cool in the tin and then carefully upturn into a serving plate (this is a very soft cake so I prefer leaving it in the tin until completely cool but if you live life on the edge you do you x).

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Step 4 -To make the icing, place the icing sugar in a food processor and blitz until fine (see, I hate sieving). Drip in the orange juice 1 tablespoon at a time. You want it thick enough to drip down the side slowly. Use a teaspoon to drip the icing down the side of the cake.

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

Ciambella Orange Citrus Cake

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