It’s the middle of a February afternoon and it’s snowing outside.
I’m sitting in my office doing some work and suddenly my mind goes back to my childhood. It does not snow very often in the place where I live – maybe once or twice a year, and when it does, it’s quite an event: People go outside, shovel the lawns, talk to each other, and dogs bark happily diving into heaps of white snow. We all feel like children again.
That’s the magic of snow: it makes us all children again, if only for just a moment.
This takes me back to a time when I am probably six or seven years old and I’ve just finished my homework. It’s four in the afternoon and time for merenda, the traditional Italian mid-afternoon snack. I am allowed to grab a Topolino (the Italian for Mickey Mouse) comic, sit on the couch and wait for my mother to prepare my favorite snack – bread and Nutella. Two slices of thick bread, two fat spoons of Nutella and I am ready for my ten minutes of heaven, while reading Donald Duck and Rockerduck.
But my mother has changed her mind. She has decided that Nutella is not healthy. She says that it is too fat and can’t be eaten every day. What? Are you crazy? What am I supposed to eat instead? A nice and healthy cake. When you are a kid, you really don’t give a damn about healthy food, right? You want it to be yummy, mouth-watering, and sweet. Now, I have to eat a healthy cake. It tastes of nothing. But here it is, much better than bread and olive oil, which my mother tried to convince me to bring to school one day. Or bread, butter, and sugar (one of the best things on earth, as I was later to discover), another of my mother’s beloved snacks.
After that first shocking moment, I grew to like this simple yet tasty cake, which comes to my mind every time I need some comfort food. In days like today, with the snow outside and the fire roaring by my desk, I feel the need to bake this cake and be a little kid again, for a while.
So I would like to share this recipe with you because it’s super easy to bake, is ready in a minute, and is a great healthy snack (moms are always right, I know).
Ciambellone is a ring-shaped cake, similar to a plum-cake in its ingredients and taste. The one I am writing below is the basic recipe, which can be customized by adding other ingredients, like chocolate, nuts, pine nuts and whatever comes to mind. I usually make it as simple as possible, exactly as my mother used to do. I usually use a Kitchen Aid mixer for this kind of cakes, but my mother used to hand mix everything, so it is perfectly doable even if you do not own a food processor.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1 lemon (you’ll just need the lemon zest)
1 packet baking powder
Blend the eggs with the sugar until they are nice and creamy. Slowly add milk, then oil, and then the lemon zest. Add the flour, little by little, making sure that it does not form lumps and then add the baking powder. Carefully and generously butter a ring cake pan and transfer the batter in the pan. Bake it at 375° for 40 minutes. Let the cake cool and place it on a serving plate. Dust the cake nicely with icing sugar and enjoy it!