150 ml vegetable oil (plus some for greasing)
250 grams caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of ½ unwaxed lemon
175 grams plain flour
75 grams cornflour
1 teaspoon icing sugar (to serve)
This cake best in a ring shape, ciambella (pronounced “chambella”) as it’s known in Italy, and a 22cm/9-inch savarin or ring mould is a fairly standard baking tin here in the UK, too, but do use a 22 or 23cm/9-inch springform tin if that’s easier for you: the cake won’t be as high, but don’t use a smaller diameter because, without the hole in the middle, the cake wouldn’t cook properly in the centre if the tin were any deeper.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350°F, and grease your ring mould (or springform tin); you can use vegetable oil for this or a special baking spray.
- Separate the eggs and put the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Whisk the whites until you have firm peaks, then set aside while you get on with the rest of the cake.
- Scrape the yogurt out of its pot and on to the egg yolks, then use the emptied yogurt pot to measure out your other ingredients – so, next, add 2 pots (just) of sugar and whisk with the egg yolks and yogurt until airy and light.
- Now fill your yogurt pot up with vegetable oil and, beating all the while, slowly add this to the egg yolk mixture. Then beat in 2 capfuls/teaspoons of vanilla extract and the zest of half a lemon.
- Still beating, add 2 yogurt potfuls of flour followed by 1 yogurt potful of cornflour or potato starch, then scrape down and fold in with a rubber or silicone spatula. Now, with a large metal spoon, dollop in the whisked egg whites, and fold them in with the spatula.
- Fill the prepared ring mould with the smooth, soft batter – it will come right to the top – and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes; when cooked, the sides will be coming away at the edges and a cake tester will come out clean.
- Remove it from the oven to a wire rack, letting the cake sit in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out.
- Once cooled (although I love this still slightly warm), transfer it to a serving plate or stand and dust with icing sugar. Traditionally, this cake would be placed on the plate with the smooth side uppermost, but I rather like it turned back up the way it was baked, with its rustic cracks and uneven surface visible.