Olive oil and ricotta Ciambella cake


Food memories tend to always be happy memories because whether the food you are recollecting was good or bad, it will always be surrounded by other factors. The time you ate or made the dish, your age, and influences, who you were with and who taught or made the dish for you, the time of year meaning the season, the aroma, the wanting of more and then the anticipation of having it again at a later stage.

Ciambella is the cake along with marble cake that I would always connect to my 91-year-old Nonna Carmela. It is essentially a vanilla and lemon ring cake, light and spongy with the most fantastic aroma. As a little girl and even as a young independent woman, when I visited Nonna, she would either whip up a quick ciambella for me to take home still warm in a tea-towel or slice up her pre-made ciambella for me with a cup of tea or a cold iced espresso. There was always a fresh cake ready for visitors in her cake tin. I would take a bite and she would watch my face with pure joy as she knows how I feel about this cake. To be honest Nonna knows that I adore a Ciambella cake, but she probably does not realise that I love HER ciambella more than anything else because this is my childhood food memory.

In my first cookery book Southern Italian Family Cooking, I included her original recipe. A light cake with lemon, strega (spiced) liquor and lots of whisking to create a light batter. My newly developed ciambella swaps out butter for olive oil and adds ricotta, a delicate richness. This recipe is one that will never fail you, if anything this will create the food memory that your family will come back to time and time again.

Ciambella – Ring cake

250g 00 flour (or plain flour)

150g caster sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla (or a sachet or Italian vanilla)

250g ricotta (drained overnight)

2 lemons, zest plus juice from 1 lemon

200ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large eggs


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C – Fan-assisted.
  2. Grease your ring mould 25cm.
  3. Into a bowl add the flour, caster sugar and baking powder. Stir.
  4. Into another bowl add the drained ricotta and use a spatula to break it up.
  5. Add the lemon zest and juice to the ricotta along with the olive oil and eggs. Mix well to full incorporate.
  6. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and fully combine.
  7. Pour the mixture into your greased mould and baked for 45 minutes or until golden.