Wednesday, 4 July 2018


Sometimes I stray across a recipe that I'm moved to make straight away. Such was the case last week when the ever-reliable Smitten Kitchen published a recipe for an Italian tea cake I'd never heard of called ciambellone. I have no idea really how to pronounce this but in my head it sounds like cymbals being smashed together as in look and taste that's its effect. Further cause for celebration - it's a one bowl affair, oil-based (so no melting or creaming of butter) and I had almost all of the ingredients already, including (as a bonus) eggs from my Dad's chooks he'd brought with him in his carry-on luggage for a weekend visit. We'd planned a drive and no road trip is complete without a thermos and a treat to have with it. We had ours at a point in a park looking out at endless water. And again, back at home, for afternoon tea.

Ciambellone (Italian tea cake)
Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 teaspoons seems like A LOT of salt but don't be deterred - it balances the sugar perfectly. Speaking of sugar - this was the first time I've tried the technique of coating the greased tin in sugar rather than flour - I was skeptical but it worked perfectly and provided a nice clean surface for the icing. If you don't have a bundt tin, you could scale down the quantities below and make it in a loaf tin or a regular round cake tin I'm sure.

2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea or table salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of half an orange
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (325ml) neutral oil - such as sunflower, safflower, grapeseed or another vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (about 185g) plain, not Greek, yogurt (or 3/4 cup Greek yoghurt plus one tablespoon water)
1/2 cup (120g) mascarpone
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20ml) vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 cup (120g) icing sugar
About 3 tablespoons (45ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Grease bundt tin with butter and dust with granulated sugar. Knock out any excess sugar from tin. 
Place sugar and salt in a large bowl and rub the zest into it with your fingertips. Add in oil, mascarpone, yogurt, and then eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder over batter and whisk to incorporate. Fold in sifted flour.

Pour batter into tin, smooth out evenly, then tap tin on counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for about 40 minutes, checking in at the 30 minute mark to rotate the tin for even colouring, and to ensure it’s not baking faster than anticipated. Cake is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in centre comes out cleanly. 

While the cake is baking, make the icing: Mix icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice until smooth, adding the last tablespoon of juice just if needed but don't thin out too much - you want this mixture thick so it will stick to the sides of the cake. 

When cake is done, let it rest on a cooling rack for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove it from the tin while hot. Pour icing evenly over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. 

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