My first taste of Italian ciambella (ring cake) was made by Esther, the B&B hostess in Torre le Nocelle, Campania, Southern Italy. Esther and her husband, Antonio, run a converted farmhouse that sits among rows of grapevines, olive trees, and fruit trees. Each morning during my visit in 2018, I would rise to the stunning view off the balcony, and just like a little child on Christmas morning, pad downstairs to see what was for breakfast. I was usually greeted by Antonio, as Esther left early each morning to work in Avellino, the nearest city.
Antonio spoke very little English and I was struggling with Italian, but after a day or two, we developed a way of communicating just fine. He would make my coffee in his moka pot, pour a small cup and place it on the table in front of me with a proud grin. Then he would step outside to smoke and look at his cell phone, checking on me every now and then and raising his eyebrows with the question, “more coffee?”
Dwarfed, I sat at the head of the huge table laden with homemade pastries, cakes, jams, jellies, and breads, prepared with love by Esther. She served up the second “B” in B&B with such Italian charm. I felt like a queen and a happy little kid each and every day.
Esther’s ring cakes tasted like heaven. Yes, that is plural. There was always a wonderful selection to choose from: blueberry, raspberry, chocolate-flavored ring cakes would sit perched on glass trays, lording over the other foods like a grande dame.
The following recipe is a new twist on the ciambella, flavored with carrots, raisins, walnuts, ginger and brown sugar. My suggestion: find an Italian man to make your coffee and serve a thick slice of this cake alongside.
I like leaving the carrots in small chunks (as opposed to grating or food processing) because they make colorful orange flecks in the cake and add sweetness to the complex flavors. Enjoy!
Ciambella alle Carote - Italian Carrot Ring Cake
Classic ring cake perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. Try out the vegan sugar-free option
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (for a sugar-free version, omit the sugar and use 3/4 cup raisins)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup milk (substitute almond milk for vegan version)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil + a bit more for greasing the pan
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten (substitute 1 1/2 cups applesauce for vegan version)
- 1/2 cup raisins (for a sugar-free version, omit the sugar and use 3/4 cup raisins)
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 large carrots, finely chopped (1 cup, packed)
- powdered sugar to dust the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 10-inch ring pan.
- Mix dry ingredients: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, mix the milk, oil, and eggs, raisins, carrots and walnuts and stir well.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently fold and incorporate everything together begin careful not to overmix. You don’t want to form glutton; we want a light and airy cake.
- Spoon into greased ring pan and cook for 1 hour until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Gently turn cake out onto a serving plate. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Serve right away or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Buon Appetito! Yummy with hot coffee to start your morning with a smile.
For vegan/sugar-free option, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In another bowl, mix together almond milk, oil, and applesauce, carrots, walnuts and, raisins. Follow steps 5, 6 and 7.
You may use a loaf pan if you don’t have a ring pan. Just cook 15 minutes longer and test for doneness.