This is the easiest Italian cake recipe you will ever try, I promise! Sabina's Ciambella: a classic Italian family cake with only five simple ingredients, five minutes preparation and very little washing-up! And it will give you happy smiles and contented faces all around. The only problem is that it will disappear so fast you will have to make another!
It is Sabina's "ricetta" - recipe - for the traditional Italian cake that you can buy slices of here in la Maremma called Ciambella. She makes it for her children's breakfast and serves it with a large glass of milk.
I must admit it did take some getting used to when I first moved here watching my Italian friends and family eats biscuits or cake with a cafe latte (milky coffee) for breakfast rather than a good old bowl of cereal ... but when in Rome! But after many years of living here I'm now converted. Not least because my youngster never finishes the cereal that I insist she has, but she always finishes this with "gusto" (heartily). And given that it is made from simple ingredients with no artificial colourings or additives etc, who am I to complain?
As well as being a traditional Italian breakfast cake, Ciambella an all round family cake for a "merenda" (snack), dipped in coffee or milk.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 °C (160°C fan).
2. Melt the butter.
3. In a large bowl or food processor beat together the eggs and sugar.
3. Add to the flour, melted butter and milk to the egg and sugar mixture.
4. Mix together well.
5. Pour the cake mixture into your cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes (see note re times below).
Sabina makes her cake the traditional Italian mum way, with plain flour and a "bustina" (sachet) of "levito" (raising agent). But I am used to cooking with self-raising flour which works just the same.
In Italy, the cake mixture is usually cooked in a ring tin, but I don't have one and Sabina told me that any tin will do fine, round, rectangular, square, the lot: the cake still tastes great. And it does! But if you're looking for particularly want a ciambella cake tin...
The classic version of Ciambella doesn't have anything extra added to it. But Sabina's children and cousins all love best the chocolate version she makes with dollops of Nutella added on top of the mixture in the tin just before baking, and my youngster insists that I do the same. So the version that you see in these photographs is the Nutella one. The Nutella sinks to the bottom of the cake during cooking and gives you delicious mouthfuls of chocolate cake with melted chocolate centres.
It works really well as well with the addition of finely grated lemon or orange rind. Try whatever you like: this cake recipe is perfect for adapting.
As for cooking times it will depend on your baking tin. As with all cakes, the smaller and deeper the tin the longer it will take than if you cook it in a wider shallow tin. I cooked this one in a 9 1/2 inch 24 cm round tin and it took 30 mins.
Insert a clean knife or skewer when the cake is nicely browned and doesn't wobble in the middle and if it comes out clean with no cake mixture on it, then you're done.
TIP To reduce the washing-up afterwards even more...
If you have digital scales, apart from melting the butter, do the whole preparation in one large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, rather than a food processor. Weigh the sugar, add the eggs and beat. Zero the scales and add the flour, zero again and add the milk and then the butter.
Leave it to cool if the little mouths in your house will wait that long!
If you want to posh it up a bit, you could add a dusting of icing sugar over each slice before serving. Or even some fresh raspberries and cream (not an Italian thing). But I have to honestly say it doesn't need it and it gets consumed too fast to even warrant bothering! Such fine points are lost on most small hands anyway!
More Maremma recipes...