A ring and a pot

1. (noun) ciambella [tʃam’bɛl:a]

dolce a forma circolare con buco al centro

This can’t go on for much longer. I mean it’s fine once in a while, once a week even, but not every single morning. I really must take myself in hand and return to a more fibrous start, ideally a worthy cereal with superberries, fruit and yogurt with seeds, pebbles and oily fish, brown toast at the very least.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it while it lasts though, my two, sometimes three stumpy slices of cake, ciambella that is, and small bucket of milky coffee for breakfast. This cakey state of affairs has been going on for just over three weeks now, ever since my friend Ruth (who along with her Calabrian husband Ezio is one of my cooking/olive oil pressing/tomato preserving/ jam making/chicken and child rearing/wood chopping heroes) shared her recipe with me and I discovered the joys of ciambella or pot cake. Now you may be either disappointed or relieved to know I’m not about to share a recipe for a pot cake in the puff the magic dragon sense with you, the pot refers to a yogurt pot, a 125g pot of whole plain yogurt to be precise.

The pot of yogurt serves two purposes, The first, unsurprisingly, is the yogurt itself which is the first ingredient. The second is the empty pot which provides a nifty measure with which to scoop up the rest of the ingredients. Having tipped the yogurt into a large bowl, you add two pots of flour, one of ground almonds, another of sugar, 3/4 of a pot of extra virgin olive oil and two teaspoons of baking powder. To this you add three eggs and whatever embellishment takes your fancy – I will come to these a bit later. You give the mixture a very energetic stir or whizz with the immersion blender and then tip the thick batter into a well buttered and floured ring tin. You bake your ciambella at 180° for about 30 minutes. I estimate preparation time to be about 4 minutes and dirty dish and implement count 4 if you include the yogurt pot.

As much as I like minimal washing up and even though I’m the first to be extremely slap happy with measurements, I was rather skeptical when Ruth told me about this recipe!  I’ve always been suspicious of cups (pots) and sticks when it comes to baking, they just seem too vague and wildly imprecise, especially in my hands. Also I have such a nice reliable scale. This ciambella however has dented those fears, I’ve made it – to my slight embarrassment – 8 times in the last few weeks and it has turned out brilliantly each time.

This ciambella is rather like a simple pound, Madeira or what some people call everyday cake. It’s pleasingly unfussy, firm yet light and thanks to the yogurt and almonds, really moist. The olive oil gives the ciambella a distinct brightness and a subtle fruity flavor, it also seems to help it keep better. Now I should add my ciambelle have been slightly different every time, even when I’ve stuck to the most basic recipe with no variations! But they’ve been unfailingly good and these differences, these ciambella idiosyncrasies, seem appropriate for something made this pleasingly hung-ho way.

Making this ciambella reminds me of when, at 8 years old, I learned how to make Corn flake crispies (melt arbitrary quantities of butter, golden syrup, sugar and cocoa powder in pan, mix with corn flakes, divide mixture between cake cases, chill, consume entire batch with best friend at bottom of garden and then feel very peculiar). They were one of the first things I was allowed to make all on my own and consequently – giddy with kitchen freedom and the promise of a large quantity of refined sugar – I made corn flake crispies at every available opportunity. The discovery of this recipe has had a similar effect, dizzy with the prospect of cake, minimal mess and virtually no washing up, I keep disappearing into the kitchen and making another one. A spare 4 minutes? Infant sleeping? Ad break during a film! Unexpected guests! Low blood sugar! A sniff of yogurt and I’m off.

So the variations. My favorite addition (the very first picture in this post) is lemon. You add both the zest and some juice of an unwaxed fruit to the basic olive oil and almond spiked recipe.  If I was feeling fancy could call this version of my pot cake ‘Olive oil, lemon and almond ring’ or if I was feeling Latin ‘Ciambella con olio d’oliva, mandorle e limone’. I’m feeling neither fancy nor Latin so lets stick with Lemon ciambella. Second prize goes to ciambella studded with the Piedmontese special, a heavenly couple, the one that fills a zillion pots of Nutella: hazelnut and dark chocolate. Bronze medal, surprisingly, goes to ciambella with grated apple, sultanas and nutmeg: a spicy, fruity little number that feels very seasonal indeed. Consolation prize must go to ciambella with banana, not my kind of thing at all, but beautifully moist it must be said and loved by everyone else.
For my most recent 4 minute baking session I made a ciambella with Demerara sugar, almonds that had been ground with their skins and a handful of chopped dark chocolate. I did wonder if it might be a little rich for someone whose always banging on about liking savory breakfasts. It wasn’t.
Hopefully the above has been so inspiring and the description so straightforward and clear you already know the recipe. If not (which means I have failed Ruth, the cake and as a blogger) here it is.
  • 125g pot of whole-milk plain yoghurt
  • 2 pots of plain flour (ideally italian 00)
  • 1 pot ground almonds
  • 1 very generous pot sugar (I prefer coarse brown sugar)
  • 3/4 pot extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 75g coarsely chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips/zest of a whole unwaxed lemon or orange plus 50ml juice/ a mashed banana/a grated apple, handful of sultanas and grating of nutmeg/ 50g coarsely chopped hazelnuts and 50g chopped chocolate.

Set the oven to 180°/ 350F and butter and flour a 26cm ring tin

Tip the yogurt into a large bowl.

Using the yogurt pot as a scoop, add 2 pots of flour, 1 pot of ground almonds, 1 pot of brown sugar and 3/4  pot of olive oil and the baking powder to the bowl and stir.

Break three eggs into the bowl and stir the ingredients very energetically until you have a smooth batter.

Add the additions and stir again.

Pour the batter into the ring tin and bake in the middle of the oven  for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes or so before turning out onto a cake rack.



Filed under almonds, cakes and baking, Chocolate, food, Rachel's Diary, recipes

33 responses to “A ring and a pot

  1. laura

    Always wonderful to have one of your posts to read. I learned a variation of this cake from one of my students over thirty years ago and, as you say, it always comes out wonderful. I usually double the yogurt and love the “agrumi” version. And, yes, it always comes out slightly different even when you use exactly the same ingredients but it is always delicious.
    Thank you for the link to the photos of your beautiful baby boy.
    Auguri di cuore for the holidays and for everything.

  2. Mel

    Hi R
    I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for 18 delicious months after stumbling upon it during a search for pasta e ceci or some such. Your posts inspire me not only to cook, but to write! Needless to say, I am delighted you keep posting even with your lovely little man no doubt keeping you very busy. And I’m glad you still find time to make cake. I will definitely try this one. I hope you two have a lovely first Christmas.
    Best wishes from Australia

  3. Elizabeth

    Rachel, you have inspired me to go and search for a ring mould cake tin. Thank you for the recipe which I may try for breakfast on Christmas morning.

  4. Kaja

    It’s always nice to read your posts after a long wait! Thank you for sharing – the baby photo, the recipe and the personal note which makes you posts unique!
    Happy Christmas from Slovenia!

  5. Rachel, you’re such a wonderful writer and baker and I’m so impressed you have time to whip up such wonderful things, even if you claim they are simple. I’d never heard of a ciambella before but it looks and sounds amazing, especially with lemon. Your last lemon and almond cake was so good. I love yoghurt in cakes but like you, have always been sceptical about measuring with cups. Still, I have to overcome my prejudices!

  6. Rosemary

    thank you for the lovely post and the very delicious-sounding cake. i know you must be very very busy with your little fellow, but please keep posting- however sporadically! your writing and your recipes are so worth waiting for.

  7. I will try this over the weekend as it seems to be exactly the kind of cake I like. I always leave the skins on almonds when I bake and have ever since I first made Marcella’s carrot cake.

    Happy hols.

  8. Those pictures make me smile—the baby and the cake. I need a ring tin…

  9. What a fun and versatile cake! I like the idea of all your variations and think everyone should have a recipe like this in their bag of tricks.

  10. Hi Rach-I was so happy to find your post today. With its concise ingredient list that can varied at will, and its ease of measurement (pot to bowl to ring, wow) the ciambella recipe is just the thing at your fingertips, especially in these busy busy times.

    best to you and your bonny (3 months old today, oh my!) boy
    x N.

  11. I love your writing so much, and can totally relate to your morning cake addiction. I keep telling myself the same thing — I’m going to go back to my boring, nutritious Ezekial bread or eggs or yogurt — and yet, I keep making all these sweet breads! I like the idea of this cake, though, because it sounds delicious and also healthy enough to feel good about eating all the time 🙂 Definitely a must-try!

  12. Leigh


    Any chance you would know how much that would be in ounces?



  13. A lovely and versatile cake for breakfast or dinner with friends. Enjoy the holidays with your adorable son.

  14. rachel

    Oh I so want to make this! I can convert the rest of the recipe to US measurements, but am trying to come up with some sort of volume measure ment for the pan…

  15. looks heavenly and the circular shape is so satisfying. this weekend I’ll be hunting out a ring mould. thank you! though I slightly fear it’s addictive powers..

  16. Thank you so much for this recipe, my version varied rather a lot but still came out beautifully, any excuse to eat baked goods for breakfast suits me. I used frozen raspberries and organge zest as flavouring (becuase thats what was in my fridge!) and the combination is amazing.

  17. I love the idea of pot cake, the use of yogurt and the container to measure. And who doesn’t like a fetta di ciambella with one’s morning coffee? Will try this sooner rather than later. Ciao!

  18. Federica

    One of my favourite cakes ever! Merry Christmas Rachel

  19. oooh- this looks fabulous!

  20. Hi Rachel, the cake looks lovely! Just wanted to say also – I visited Rome recently and I went to one of the restaurants you recommended – La Torricella. I loved it and I would never have found it if it wasn’t for your blog. Many thanks,
    Louisa Allan

  21. laura

    All best wishes for a healthy, happy 2012 for you and your loved ones.

  22. i just made one and two at the same time. they are cooling and I am writing you to say first, that this was such a pleasure to read. then I should add that it is so wonderful to have you back (this is a bit late, I know), and conclude with: OH MY GOD your child is adorable. So many bright and bubbly wishes for the new year. xoxo Mina

  23. Nadia

    What’s a nice English girl doing spelling ‘yoghurt’ as ‘yogurt’? I think I made this same cake today courtesy of Dorie Greenspan, although she adds a marmalade glaze which I couldn’t myself as I haven’t got marmalade (even if I hope to make some soon, pending promise of seville oranges to come fulfilled). It’s got a nice, dry plain crumb, good flavours all round and perfect for a mid-morning or afternoon cake. Happy new year!

  24. This really is a recipe with results, I made it in muffin form on Sunday with Almond meal, fresh strawberries and lemon (zest and juice of half) and they were not just good but super good.

  25. Jorin Hawley

    Really enjoying your fun and adventurous writing style… now looking forward to playing with some of your recipes! Keep it up!

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  27. Matt R

    Made this yesterday and it was wonderful… useful tip – 125g of yoghurt works out to a half cup measure, which makes everything else easy to judge if your yoghurt came in a bigger pot and you’re just using up some of it!

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  31. do you have an non nut alternative/substitute for the ground almonds?

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