Ciambellone Ring Cake – Old Days Italian Staple

This delicious classic Italian ring cake is simple, fast and butter-free.
By Elisa Gennari

Basically every person I know used to have, as a child, what we call “ciambellone” (big doughnut). I don’t think in the 70s and 80s in Italy there were women who did not know how to bake this delicious cake (obviously every household had its own recipe..).

Unfortunately, for the last two decades many moms seem to have forgotten how to bake their children an healthy and home made snack and had replaced it with ready-made ones, rich in sugars and preservatives. Recently, though, there has been a change of direction and many mothers are becoming more aware of the importance of food habits in children, and have started again to bake their own cakes.

You don’t have to be and expert chef to cook this simple cake and it’s amazing to prepare it with the kids. It’s so easy they can make it on their own. It tastes like old days, it is the perfect comfort food. Can you find something more simple?

I remember when I was a little girl my mom used to bake this cake and many variations of it, quite twice a week to make me and my sister have a healthy snack in the afternoon. Nowadays I would also say that it’s not only healthy for your children but it also really cheap, you will need just 5 simple ingredients. You can also add your personal twist by adding raisins, chocolate chips, nuts or everything you like, I’ve made it a couple of times with matcha green tea, it was awesome. I recommend you try it with chocolate chips and pecan or with a mix of grounded spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves…it will always be perfect.

To get the original shape you will need a ring-shaped pan, but if you don’t have it you can use a plumcake pan or a 23cm round pan.

Some tips to make some changes to this cake:
1. Richer taste: You can substitute milk with yogurt, or cream if you want to prepare a richer cake.
2. To make a marble cake: you use 250gr of all purpose flour, then divide the batter into two bowls and add 50 gr of cocoa powder into one. Then pour the dough into the pan alternately.
3. Apple variation: slice two apples and line them over the batter in the pan, dust with caster sugar and bake.
4. Whole grain variation: use whole grain flour – spelt, oat, wheat or a mix
5. Dairy free: use soy milk instead of regular milk

Now let’s bake our cake!

5.0 from 5 reviews
Old days Italian staple: Italian Ring Cake
 
Simple, fast, butter-free and tasty cake
Author:
Serves: 12/16
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 300gr (2 and ½ cups) all purpose flour (or 270gr - 2cups whole wheat)
  • 200gr sugar (1 and ½ cups)
  • ½ glass of vegetable oil (1/2 cup)
  • 1 glass of milk (1cup)
  • 15gr baking powder, that should be 2 and a half teaspoons
  • orange or lemon zest, grated
  • 5gr of butter to grease the pan
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven at 180/200°C (350/390°F). Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it with a whisk, or put them into the food processor and turn it on. Mix until evenly combined.
  2. Grease your baking pan with butter and then add some flour and move the pan to even distribute the flour on the surface. Add the batter and cook for 40 minutes. You can check if it's ready by piercing the cake with a skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
  3. IMPORTANT! do not open the oven in the first 25 minutes or the cake will collapse


28 Comments
  1. I used active dry yeast and halved the ingredients and baked in a loaf pan. My cake sank in the middle. Do you know what could be the cause?

    It still tasted good though but since I’ve never bought any before, I don’t know how it tastes.

    1. Hi Lee Lian, you can use 2 tablespoons of baking powder
      and Happy Holidays to you too! hope you will enjoy the cake (try covering it with chocolate…. perfect for Christmas :D )

  2. Hi! for this kind of cake active dry yeast is not suitable, you should use baking soda or baking powder instead, and this is the cause your loaf sank in the middle.
    Active dry yeast is supposed to leaven for a while and is mainly used for baking bread and pizza, this recipe, instead, need a yeast that will leaven in the oven to let the cake rise.
    Hope it helps!

  3. Hi, I made your cake and it turned out good but I had to guess on the amount of milk and vegetable oil as I had no idea how much a glass was. What is the measurement of “one glass?” My cake was a little rubbery but had a good flavor.

  4. Hi Sandra, I’m sorry I wasn’t more specific, you may use 200ml of milk and 100ml of oil, the rubbery consistency may be caused by a wrong amount of oil, so I hope you will make it again with these quantities.
    Thanks!

  5. Thank you for posting this recipe. My family used to make this and I have not had it in years. Can anisette be added to this cake? I remember the anisette flavor in my Mom’s version.

    1. Hi Steven, sure you can add anisette to the cake (maybe one or two tablespoon) it’s also nice with limoncello if you use lemon zest. You could also add vanilla extract or cocoa to make a chocolate ring cake (in this case I would add 30gr of unsweetened cocoa powder and cut the same amount on the flour)! Hope you will enjoy this cake :)

  6. Hi Nadia! here are all the ingredients:
    3 eggs
    2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
    ½ glass of vegetable oil (1/2cup)
    1 glass of milk (1cup)
    25gr of baking powder
    orange or lemon zest, grated
    5gr of butter to grease the pan

    Hopes this can help :)

    1. Elisa,
      Thank you for posting these measurements — I will try it tonight. I grew up in Italy and this was a desert/breakfast we made often. Now, my son is enjoying it! Grazie! Maria

  7. Hi! According to conversion charts, 25gr of baking powder equals 5 teaspoons. This seems like a lot for only 2 1/2 cups of flour . Does this conversion seem correct?

  8. Thank you Elisa, I will try this recipe very soon. I have some lemons that need to be used. I bet this cake would freeze well. What do you think?

  9. HI, I`m here in MA from Italy, visiting my family. The ingredients I had listed in my recipe were in grams, so I had some difficulty in converting into ounces. Then I found your recipe in cups……Whaoooo!!!!! My gran daughter really enjoyed a nice slice for breakfast!!!Grazie mille
    Rita

  10. Hello everyone!

    I’ve just made this Ciambellone following the recipe to the exact amounts including 25gr of baking powder. It. Is simply delicious especially with a nice espresso alongside it! It did not last the night, making another as we speak!

    Thank you!

    1. Dear Morgan, the recipe actually calls for oil not butter, but both can be used, made with butter will have a richer taste, you could also use ghee or coconut oil :)

  11. What amount of baking powder? What does 25gr equal? Thank you for a great recipe that I have been looking for. Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

  12. I want to make this cake but the baking powder measurement here seems like a lot..it’s calling for 5 tsp and I have never used that much in any of my baking. Is this correct.

  13. Hi Pat if you check the other comments actually the measurement for baking powder is wrong, the correct one is 15gr, that should be 2 and a half teaspoons
    hope this will help :)

  14. I am from an Italian family, and we are living a very healthy life style.
    I have been baking for all of my life, and it is my happy place.

    I am going to try Your Old Day Italian cake for the Memorial Day weekend.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe with us.

    Angela Salerno.

  15. I absolutely love this cake you’re right no additives not too much sugar it is delicious everyone loves it thank you for sharing my grandmother if she were alive :( was born in Italy would have loved this or maybe she made it herself or her grandmother who knows :) I added some vanilla that I make myself yum !

  16. Thank you. My husband is 100% Italian. Both sets of grandparents migrated to the US through Ellis Island. I have many wonderful authentic Italian recipes. I will add this one to my collection.

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