photo by Daniele Tomelleri

by Sara Germanotta

Nearly every Italian family has a tried and true ciambellone (sponge cake) recipe that’s been handed down and passed around. Some call it ciambella. I’ve tried many different ciambellone recipes over the years and none comes close to the one my husband’s Zia Antonietta shared with me. It’s as light as an angel food cake, yet moist and lemony. This cake is simple and delicious on its own, but I’ve also been using it as a base for a stunning cranberry trifle.


8 eggs, separated, at room temperature

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 sachet vanillina vanillina

1 tsp cream of tartar


Preheat oven to 350 °F. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy (about 10 minutes). Add oil, water, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt then stir into egg mixture. In another bowl, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour mixture into an ungreased angel food cake or ring cake pan. Do not use a non-stick pan for this recipe because it will prevent the cake from rising properly. Bake for 1 hour. Once cake is done, immediately turn upside down and allow to cool completely before removing from pan.