Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

Orange bundt cake – Marcella’s style

Posted in Baking, Food, Food & Entertaining, and Uncategorized

Hazan's orange cake

Many Italian desserts are worth their calories but they are all steeped in the so-called “cucina povera” tradition, which poses a bit of a problem when you are looking to end an Italian meal with a visual show stopper. The farther South one travels down the boot, the more the French and Arabic culinary influences can be felt, and desserts tend to be heavier and more elaborate, but in the rest of Italy cakes are invariably made with a few wholesome ingredients and not many frills. For the show stoppers, I hate to admit, we have to borrow from the French.

To keep the Italian tradition alive, even when it comes to desserts, I often start with peasant recipes and dress them up depending on the occasion. I also love to research the roots of dishes, especially cakes, and I can spend an inordinate amount of time online poring over pages of old cookbooks, that each municipality gladly makes available. The recipes are usually haphazard and impossible to replicate as they are written but one can glean origins, substitutions and the different steps that were added over the centuries.

A little while ago, just after the passing of Marcella Hazan, the Italian maven who tirelessly worked to establish real Italian cuisine in the States, sofagirl posted Marcella’s recipe for the simplest (and uber-delicious) tomato sauce. Marcella Hazan grew up near Cesena, what used to be a fishing town on the Adriatic Sea, less than an hour east of Bologna, where I come from. Her choices of ingredients and basic flavors are reminiscent of my mother’s kitchen, which is why I hardly refer to her books when cooking. What Marcella shared is what I knew, via my mother.

But, recently, while planning a dinner party that would feature arancini di riso, chicken involtini, roasted endive and other Italian side dishes, I wanted to feature an Italian cake at the end, something I might not have made before, and came across Marcella’s Orange cake – Ancona style. I had never heard of it and was intrigued by the “Ancona style” reference. Ancona is also on the Adriatic, farther south in the region of Marche and, hard as I tried, I could not find this cake listed as typical of Marche anywhere. What I did find is a ciambella (a sort of round pound cake with a hole in the middle), often made near Pesaro and Urbino (also in the Marche region) whose star ingredients are anise seeds (or anise liquor) and citrus. I have a feeling Ms. Hazan adapted and substituted to suit her New York kitchen.

The end result is a very dense cake, similar to a pound cake in density but with a fraction of the butter, made moist by buckets of freshly squeezed orange juice poured over it while still warm.
I baked it in a bundt pan for prettiness and served it with vanilla ice-cream, orange julius style. Simple, easy and yes, elegant too.


RECIPE – Yields about 10 slices

2 C + 2 T  Flour (300 grams)

3 Eggs

Zested peel of 3 oranges

4 T butter (60 grams)

1 C + 3 T sugar (220 grams)

2 T ouzo liqueur (I used some brandy and a tablespoon of anise seeds instead)

1 T milk

2 1/2 ts baking powder

2 C freshly squeezed orange juice (add some sugar to it if oranges are not very sweet)

1. Heat oven to 350F (180C)

2. Mix the flour, eggs, orange zest, butter, sugar and liqueur in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, until well amalgamated. 

3. Add the milk and baking powder. Mix well. The cake batter will be very stiff. 

4. Spray or butter very generously a tube pan or a bundt pan. Spread the cake batter in the pan and smooth the top. 

5. Bake the cake for about 40/45 minutes or until golden.

6. Invert the cake while still warm and place it on a rimmed plate. Poke many holes with a chopstick and pour the orange juice all over the cake. Whatever juice ends up at the bottom of the cake, leave it there, it will be eventually absorbed. Serve at room temperature. Cake keeps in the fridge, covered, for a week.

Share on Facebook


  1. […] orange muffin came about because I saw a recipe for Orange Bundt Cake on Campari & Sofa, and thought it would be nice to make this as muffins for a pretty dessert. […]

    February 3, 2014
  2. Sausca

    The recipe appears in Marcella’s Cucina p422. She first had the cake and got the recipe in Ancona.

    November 28, 2013
    • You are absolutely right but it’s funny how I was not able to locate anything similar in the area. Wonder if she got it from a friend or acquaintance who tweaked the original “ciambellone” recipe for a more moist result. Thanks for stopping by.

      November 29, 2013
  3. Mmmmm. I am really intrigued and will try it tomorrow. Is there another option beside ouzo or anised liquor? I am not a fan:(

    November 21, 2013
  4. Love this, Claudia, and will definitely give it a try. May make them as muffins/individual servings for nice presentation.

    November 21, 2013
    • Just know that, without the soaking, because of the small amount of butter, it can be really dry. You have to soak it to the point of being sticky.

      November 21, 2013
      • Made this muffin sized and was a success!
        The flour should be 325 grams instead of 200 grams by the way.

        January 22, 2014
        • Am so glad! You are my gram corrector in chief. Will update immediately. Thanks!

          January 23, 2014

    Ciao! I live in the Marche region of Italy ,and so , was interested in the “Ancona cake”. Ciamballone are indeed made here, but are usually very dry and without much flavour, so I shall certainly try your version…..Grazie!

    November 21, 2013
    • I was really hoping someone from Marche would read it. I did see the ciambellone in my research and I can see how it’s pretty dry. Which is why I am sure Marcella Hazan came up with this soaking combination that makes the cake moist and sticky. Let me know and thanks for stopping by!

      November 21, 2013
  6. The image of your beautiful cake drew me in and I had to read through your entire post. It’s so interesting to learn more about the what influences Italian cooking and desserts as well. I would have loved to have had a seat at your dinner party to enjoy a slice of this cake at its conclusion. Thank you for sharing the recipe with us.

    November 21, 2013

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: