A Ciambella Romagnola, is a typical rustic cake from Emilia-Romagna. It's made with very simple ingredients like flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and some milk. It tastes like a giant sugar cookie and it's a really easy Italian baking recipe.
We love it for breakfast, but it is also wonderful as a snack or as dessert, with a glass of Passito di Romagna DOCG.
The funny thing about ciambella that it is typically a round cake with a hole in the middle. Here is the Ciambella Romagnola in a ring cake version. It's not a Bundt, but it could be made in this very large ring cake mold (similar to a Bundt, but a lot wider and shorter).
We bought our house 8 years ago and somehow we were fortunate enough to move next door to some of the sweetest Italian family on the planet. Eric's mom is from Bologna. Marta is one classy chick. She grew up in a castle outside of Bologna.
Her parents had a famous restaurant and she worked there when she was a kid and learned how to make some of the most amazing Bolognese dishes that exist.
Our neighbors have become our extended family and we have spent many holidays and birthdays together. Marta always makes a special cake for these festivities: A ciambella.
Marisa (her daughter-in-law)and I always fight over who she made it for because Marta puts this exquisite prune filling in the middle. Somehow it happens to be mine and Marisa's favorite dessert. Yes, prunes. Odd? A little. Maybe it's because we're both Sicilian and born a week apart?
Tonight my Sicilian cousin Al came over for dinner and I decided to make a Ciambella. I didn't have prunes to stew. I did have fresh organic green apples. It would make Nonna Marta proud.
What is a ciambella Romagnola?
A ciambella is traditionally made in the shape of a ring. But in some parts of Emilia Romagna, it is made into a very rustic and simple shape of a loaf.
A ciambella is enjoyed for breakfast, or even as a snack when you need something a little bit sweet. It is also lovely for dessert.
Like most nonna's, my best friend's mom Marta makes her dough on the counter; she doesn’t measure the ingredients. It’s all by memory and touch. She works the dough together until it is smooth enough and ready to bake.
Do I need any special equipment to make ciambella?
No, you do not. The best part of this Italian cake is how super easy it is to make. There is no need for a mixer. All you need is one big bowl (or two large bowls) and a mixing spoon (or your hands).
What ingredients are in a ciambella?
- all-purpose unbleached flour
- cake flour
- pinch of salt
- baking powder
- baking soda
- granulated sugar
- lemon zest
- unsalted butter (or margarine if you're dairy-free)
- vanilla extract
- milk (whole milk or unsweetened almond milk for dairy-free )
How to make an authentic ciambella?
First step is to gather all your ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk it together with your hands. Add in the sugar and mix that to combine.
Next, with your hands, mix it all together. Break up the butter (or margarine )pieces and combine with the flour.
Take the ball of dough out and roll it into a log. Pat it down and brush on some milk (or unsweetened almond milk).
Sprinkle on the pearl sugar.
Bake it at 350F for 20-30 minutes.
When it's cooled down a little, slice into biscotti like pieces.
Yes, all-purpose flour can be used in place of cake flour. The texture of baked goods does turn out more delicate and tender with cake flour.
Pear sugar is a sugar that is made by being compressed into small crunchy bits. It adds texture when added to the top of different baked goods.
Zucchero granella is pearl sugar and it is made from granulated sugar. It sort of resembles a rice grain and it is used to decorate Italian baked goods and pastries. It's also called decorators sugar.
Yes, you could sub the flour with gluten-free 1-1 flour. It will turn out very nicely. I like to use Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur's Flour.
What is another name for ciambella?
In the Romagna region, you will see the dessert called ciambella romagnola, ciambella dura, brazadela. It may also be called ciambella ferrarese, or even “al paneton”.
How to flavor a ciambella?
- Lemon zest: Nonna Marta taught me how to make a ciambella flavored with fresh lemon zest. You may wonder how much to use? If you ask nonna Marta, she will tell you there is never enough. The handful of times I baked with her, she let me know I didn't use enough lemon zest. Best to use an organic lemon (no chemicals), and be sure to only use the yellow zest, not the bitter white part.
- Vanilla: I sometimes use a vanilla paste. If you have a vanilla bean, use the seeds. Or you could use a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
- Flavored liqueur: Limoncello, anisette, Marsala, or even a bit of Vinsanto would add a different flavor. I have used homemade Limoncello (amazing!) in the dough
What to serve with ciambella
I think of ciambella as a breakfast cake. So bring on the coffee! Pretend you're in Italy, and serve a super foamy Italian foamy cappuccino or espresso. The ciambella could even be a part of a brunch spread that has cheeses, cured meats, and fruits.
If you are in Romagna, Italy, a ciambella is enjoyed dipped in some red wine as dessert. It would be with a typical wine from that area, like a Lambrusco or Sangiovese.
Can I make this Italian cake ahead of time?
Yes, it's a nice recipe to make ahead of time. is cake can be made up to 1 day ahead, cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.
What are some variations of this cake?
A very popular way to make this breakfast cake is by adding in some chocolate chips. There are other recipes that add in some raisins. The other way to serve this is with a layer of a chocolate-hazelnut cream or some jam. Or like nonna Marta does.... make a stewed fruit (prunes) or apple filling.
How to store a ciambella?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for a 2-3 days. If your kitchen is hot, store in the fridge (will stay fine for up to a week).
Can I freeze a ciambella?
Yes, once it's cooled down, wrap the whole loaf tightly with plastic wrap and place in a zipped lock freezer bag (best to cut into portions or a few big chunks before freezing).
Some other Italian dessert recipes to enjoy:
Did you make this? Please RATE THE RECIPE below:)
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- 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon shredded lemon zest
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter chilled and cut into pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- milk to brush on
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with butter, or spray with baking spray (I use baking spray).
- Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, including the lemon zest, in a bowl. Blend them thoroughly with your hands or with a fork.
- Stir the egg, vanilla, and mild together.
- Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the liquids. Gradually work in the dry ingredients, tossing them with a fork (don't stir). You want to moisten and not beat the dough. You could work the dough with your hands. The dough should be moist, lumpy, and sticky. You may need to add more tablespoons of milk and flour until you get the right consistency.
- Generously flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Lightly flour your hands. Pat the dough out to form a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 13 inches long.
- Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet. Brush some milk on top and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of pearl sugar. Bake 25 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 250 F and bake another 25 minutes. You should check it at around 15-20 minutes to see how it is looking. You don't want it to be too dark. Cut the ciambella into slices of about 1/2 inch thick and enjoy!
Just baked this for breakfast and it is now my new favorite Italian sweet. Even though it is not that sweet! It was so perfect dunked in my coffee! Thank you!