Ciambella: Rustic Italian Breakfast Cake


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to eat breakfast in Italy?  I never really thought about it until this week when I was gearing up for Breakfast Week.  While browsing Pinterest for some great breakfast treats, I came across several pins for Ciambella.   Ciambella is a delightfully light breakfast cake: think coffee cake without all of the crumbly streusel topping.  And it is light on the sweetness, so you won’t hit that sugar high, and then crash at 9:00 am when you are sitting down for that meeting.  I saw a lot of recipes for ciambella, and they were all kind of different.  So I thought I would go browsing for some authentic Italian recipes.  As luck would have it (for once!), I stumbled upon an Italian food blog, written in Italian (and containing ingredients I wouldn’t be able to find, perhaps?).  Lucky for us, we live in an age where Google Translate is widespread and often a part of our browsers, I clicked the “translate” button and thought I was in business.  I would be baking my way to some Italian breakfast goodness in no time!  Er…did I say no time?  Yeah, I did.  Too bad I was mistaken. If you would like to see the original recipe in its beautiful Italian form, it can be found here.


As I was reading merrily down the list of ingredients (listed in grams, not cups, because measuring cups are apparently an American thing, at least as far as oz. and dry measure go.  And this was Italy I was visiting. When in Rome!), and I was thinking to myself, “Dude!  you so have this,  you have everything in the pantry you need!”  That was until I got to something called “pane degli angeli”, which translated means “bread of angels”.  What the heck was this???  I had never heard of this one before.  And I listen to food radio and everything!  I got to work searching, and found that they were calling for a brand of yeast.  or was it baking powder?  Hmm… that’s a head scratcher.   Why would they call for something that could be two things?  Why because, they are like us!  If you look back through cookbooks (like the ones that came from community service organizations, or ladies auxiliary clubs), especially from the late 60’s or 70’s, and If you look at your grandma’s recipe box, you will most likely come across at least one o twenty recipe that calls for Oleo.  I don’t know about you, but I know that I have never even seen anything called Oleo in my local grocery store.  Of course, many of us know that it was actually a brand of margarine ( and when I think margarine, I have a magical moment when herald trumpets play, and a crown just appears out of know where, and the demonstration model lady hands me a piece of toast with Imperial spread on it…oops…we are talking about bread of angels aren’t we?).
So as I did some more searching on which one it could possibly be, I found an old discussion board where someone else asked my very same question.  And to make an already rambling story even longer shorter, It should be baking powder.  I checked, and sure enough I had me some of that!

I mixed up this batch of batter…because I had misread, I thought it should have been a little more doughy, but I pushed on.

Ciambella Mixing

What’s the worst that could happen? Fire..that’s the worst that could happen.

Ciambella Batter

But it didn’t.   I, and the kitchen, and the Ciambella made it out alive.

I could smell something nice cooking away about half way through, and I was pleasantly surprised that the batter didn’t spread much at all.

Ciambella Baking

And when it was ready to come out of the oven, I had to fight the urge to pick at it.  It truly was a rustic breakfast cake.  Quite rustic indeed.  And by rustic, I mean free formed.

Ciambella Cooling Ciambella

It’s not quite the prettiest thing I ever made.  But it tastes pretty good!  I have been eating a piece every day this week even.  It goes great with coffee, milk, or juice.  Or a chai latte, Just sayin’.

Ciambella: Rustic Italian Breakfast Cake
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
Lightly sweet rustic Italian cake, intended to be served for breakfast. Translated from the Italian food blog
  • 3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 14 Tbsp (200 grams) unsalted butter, soft
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp (15 grams) baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (About 1 large lemon)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Prepare a baking sheet bu lining with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, lemon zest, and baking powder. whisk together to combine thoroughly.
  4. Add eggs, and mix until just combined. Add milk and mix until a thick batter forms.
  5. Spread the "dough" even on the prepared baking sheet, to form an oblong shape.
  6. Sprinkle with granulated or sanding sugar to taste.
  7. Bake at 350° F for approx. 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool on baking sheet about 10 minutes, then transfer on parchment to wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in airtight container. Lasts approx 4-5 Days