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Here’s a versatile cake recipe that I seem to be able to remember how to make without even looking at the written recipe, because the measurements are easy and I modify some ingredients each time, depending on what I have available. The cake shape never changes though and it’s always a “ciambellone”, which is the name of its shape, and you can just as easily replace that word with crown or ring or donut or if you know a lot about cakes, then you’d say it’s a bundt or savarin cake and for many of us simpler folk, saying it’s a cake “with a hole in the middle” will also do !

Back to its versatility. Sometimes I’ll use only lemon but if I have lime and orange, I’ll use that too. The recipe calls for ricotta but thick Greek yogurt works just as well too, for a slightly lighter more tangy cake and mascarpone can be used too for something denser and richer and sometimes, if I only have a little of each, I’ll combine all three until I have enough for that ¾ cup measurement. A neutral oil is most often used, but I’m Mediterranean, so replacing half of the sunflower oil with olive oil, makes me happy.

The flavorings are obviously dependent on the citrus zests and juices but some vanilla and if possible, a hint of limoncello adds a nice touch.

The difference here is the oil & baked sugar coating which replaces the usual buttering and flouring of the cake tin and makes it easier to remove and flip out from its mold (when it’s still hot) and creates a lovely thin crunchy crust that seals in the cake’s moisture, to which you’ll add even more icing sugar and lemon juice in a final glaze and a final sprinkling of sugared zests and rock sugar.

Cakes, whether round or square or as loaves or with a hole in the middle, without the multiple layers and the frostings and the hidden surprises in the middle or candied cherries and other fancy garnishes on top, need to make a comeback.

Wouldn’t you just love to be in a café or restaurant and just ask the waiter or waitress for a piece of cake, nothing more, without any further descriptive adjectives added on ? I know I would. Today, we’re given so many choices that we’ve forgotten how to appreciate (or even ask for) anything simpler.

Simple is good too, and so much easier when it’s you making it … :)

lemon & ricotta «ciambellone» cake


1,4 kg or 16 slices x 115 grams each


cake pan coatings (for a 2 liter or 8-cup bundt cake mold):

  • 6 grams (½ tbsp) sunflower or olive oil
  • 37 grams (3 ½ tbsp) golden cane sugar (or granulated white sugar)

cake batter :

  • 300 grams (2 ¼ cups + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour, sifted after weighing
  • 10 grams (1 tbsp) baking powder (double-action preferably)
  • 300 grams (1 ½ cups) golden cane sugar (or white granulated sugar)
  • 5 grams (1 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 7,5 grams (1 tbsp) fresh zests (from 1 lemon, 1 lime, ½ orange)
  • 170 grams (¾ cup) sunflower oil (or half sunflower oil and half olive oil)
  • 175 grams (¾ cup) buttermilk or kefir (fermented milk)
  • 175 grams (¾ cup) ricotta (or thick greek yogurt or mascarpone)
  • 175 grams (¾ cup) eggs, 3 whole large
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) vanilla extract
  • optional : 15 ml (1 tbsp) limoncello (or a floral gin or more lemon juice)

glaze & decorations :

  • 125 grams (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 30 grams (1 ½ tbsp) agave syrup (or liquid honey)
  • 10 grams (1 tbsp) white rock sugar
  • 2,5 grams (1 tsp) citrus zests (lemon, lime, orange) 
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) white sugar (for mixing with the zests)


  • brush the inside of the cake pan (8-cup metal non-stick bundt pan) with ½ tbsp oil and then sprinkle the 3 ½ tbsp sugar inside and shake to distribute until evenly coated
  • preheat the oven to 180°C
  • weigh then sift the flour and mix with the baking powder and set aside
  • place the sugar, the salt and the fresh zests in a large bowl and mix well, use your fingers to rub the zests with the sugar to better release the flavors 
  • add the oil to the sugar and zests mixture and whisk well, then add the buttermilk and whisk again, then continue whisking by adding the ricotta (or yogurt or mascarpone) first, then the eggs, one by one, while whisking and finally the liquid aromatics (vanilla extract, lemon juice and limoncello) and once smooth, slowly add the flour mixture as you whisk until well combined
  • gently pour the cake batter in the bundt pan (without waiting because the baking powder will react quickly with the lemon juice and buttermilk and start bubbling) and even out the cake batter if necessary, then immediately place inside the oven and bake for 45 minutes
  • prepare the glazing with the icing sugar and lemon juice and agave syrup (or liquid honey) and set aside
  • combine the fresh citrus zests with some sugar and let them sit while the cake is baking, so that they don’t dry out and can become shiny and translucent when you sprinkle them on top later
  • remove the golden cake from the oven (it will have cracks on top but that will become the underside when glazed and decorated), let the cake cool down for 5 minutes only, then flip out so the cake is upside-down on a cooling rack placed on top of a baking sheet (to recuperate the glazing drippings)
  • brush the whole cake with the glazing syrup (top, sides and inside the hole) until all the glaze is used up (recuperate any excess glaze drippings from the baking sheet), then sprinkle the rock sugar on top and the slightly candied citrus zests and let the cake cool down completely for several hours (or overnight) for a shiny and slightly crunchy exterior
  • to store, place in a cake container (it does not have to be air-tight) and in a slightly cooler space for up to 1 week.