Barbara Lucchi and her husband Riccardo Menghi run the Vëcia Cantêna d'La Prè restaurant and wine bar in Predappio Alta, a pretty hilltop town in the mountains southwest of Forlì, a city in the central Emilia-Romagna region.
Her Ciambella Romagnola, the traditional cake of the region, is quite easy to make. It's wonderful for breakfast, dipped into warm milk, cappuccino, or a caffè latte. It's also nice at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or drizzled with zabaione, a fruit sauce, or a simple lemon glaze.
Her one word of warning: Don't scale the recipe. It works perfectly as-is.
- 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 eggs
- 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (400 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour (she uses Italian grade 00), plus additional flour for dusting the cake pan
- 1 cup (250 grams) unsalted butter, melted (over low heat on a stovetop or in the microwave on low) and cooled, plus additional for greasing the cake pan
- Grated zest of 1 lemon (avoid the bitter white pith when zesting)
- About 1 cup (250 ml) milk
- 6 teaspoons baking powder (or two 16-gram packets of lievito chimico, the Italian equivalent of baking powder)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- One 10-inch (26-cm) ring-cake mold
- 1 cup pearl sugar/coarse sugar/decorator's sugar (granella di zucchero) for decorating the cake
- Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C) with the rack in the lower position.
- Butter the ring mold; be thorough, and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.
- Put the granulated sugar in a deep mixing bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.
- Add about a third of the flour to the egg-and-sugar mixture, and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for 1 more minute.
- Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds.
- Next, add the lemon zest.
- Beat in half of the milk, and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.
- Add the baking powder and beat it in. The batter will be quite creamy. (You can add another tablespoon of milk at this point if the batter seems too dry.)
- Pour the batter into the pan, using a rubber spatula. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes, and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter and break any large air bubbles.
- Sprinkle the coarse pearl sugar over the top of the cake.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge on 1/30/2016]