Ciambella, a simple, delectable cake fit for a holiday table
A ciambella is a simple ring-shaped bread made of egg, shortening and sugar — basically, an Italian Bundt cake. Ciambelle are often served as an afternoon snack at a bar or cafe. They can be dressed with glazes, syrups or berry compote.
This decadent winter version is inspired by Emilia-Romagna. The fresh chestnuts and chestnut flour bring a smoky flavor and smell that reeks of the Apennines outside of Bologna.
For a decidedly Italian flavor, I soak the currants in grappa, a traditional peasant liqueur. Made from the scraps of what's used to make wine — the skins, seeds, and stems — grappa is fermented and distilled. Now thought by many to be an elegant after-dinner drink, grappa comes from humble beginnings.
This moist and delicious cake has an almost pudding-meets-a-cloud-in-heaven texture, thanks to the chestnut flour and the shredded raw apple. The cloves add a holiday flavor that makes this a logical addition to Christmas dinner.
I'll be with my family in Michigan. Rest assured, our table will be replete with ciambella.
Mario Batali, whose latest book is “Molto Batali” (Ecco, $29.99), contributes a column twice a month.
½ cup dried currants
½ cup grappa
Butter and flour for greasing the Bundt pan
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups cake flour
½ cup chestnut flour
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup chopped fresh chestnuts
2 Rome apples (or any soft, tart cooking apple), peeled, seeded and shredded (about 1½ cups)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 teaspoons light corn syrup, plus more if needed
1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature, for serving
Place the currants in a small bowl, add the grappa, and set aside to soak for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cake flour, chestnut flour, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until well blended. Add the egg yolks, oil and buttermilk, and, using an electric mixer, beat until smooth.
Drain the currants, reserving the grappa. Fold the currants, chestnuts and apples into the batter.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter, and then pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside to cool for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto a plate.
In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, 4 teaspoons of the reserved grappa and the corn syrup until smooth and glossy. (If it is too thick to spread, add another teaspoon of corn syrup.) Pour the icing over the peaks of the cake all around the ring, and allow it to set for 10 minutes.
Drink a shot of the remaining grappa in the kitchen before serving the cake with a bowl of the mascarpone on the side.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- Steelers notebook: Starting DEs not leaving the field
- NFL notebook: Cardinals to stay in W.Va. ahead of Steelers game
- Opposing TEs Miller, Gates took differing paths to greatness
- State woos Kennametal with $1M in incentives to stay in Pa.
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense
- Pitt, WR Boyd look to break out against Virginia
- Gorman: WPIAL must answer with power move
- After another slow start, Greensburg Central Catholic defeats Leechburg
- Feds aim to bring Chinese military leaders to Pittsburgh for trial
- Rock Steelers Style, other fashion events team up for a good cause