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Sweet Italian Holiday Bread

This is authentic ciambellotto, a sweet loaf my great-grandmother used to bake in Italy. I still use her traditional recipe—the only update I made was for using modern appliances. —Denise Perrin, Vancouver, Washington
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. Bake: 45 min.
  • Makes
    1 loaf (20 slices)


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, orange zest and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk and oil until blended. Add to flour mixture; stir just until moistened.
  • Shape into a 6-in. round loaf on a greased baking sheet. Brush top with egg yolk; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil during the last 10 minutes if needed to prevent overbrowning. Remove from pan to a wire rack; serve warm.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 197 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 38mg cholesterol, 87mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (11g sugars, 1g fiber), 4g protein.
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  • Denise
    Feb 1, 2021

    I'm the author of this recipe, and I want to make clear that this isn't a bread. Think of it as a large cookie that is sliced like a pie or cake to serve; eaten with your hands. Taste of Home used their own photo. Here's a link to show what Ciambellotto actually looks like:

  • diannesoares
    Oct 21, 2018

    I liked the idea of this traditional Italian bread ...but mine spread terribly and ended up a large disk instead of a rounded loaf. Wish I knew what I did wrong. I'd like to try it again. I thought the flavor was nice. I did add the additional 1/3 cup sugar and rubbed in the orange zest two days ahead as suggested in the comments. Really liked the crunch the course sugar gave the top.

  • Rusty
    Dec 16, 2017

    A few things: First, the night before (or two nights before) you plan to bake this, rub the fresh grated peel into the measured-out sugar with your fingers, VERY well. Seal tightly and set aside until ready to bake the bread. This step makes a very big difference in the intensity of flavor. Second: Use your favorite citrus fruits. Winter is harvest time; grapefruits, tangerines, etc. are all in season and inexpensive. We (family & friends) liked mandarins most. Third: Add an additional one-third cup of sugar. You'll end up with a lovely sweet bread to serve with tea and/or a loaf you can turn into instant biscotti. Just cut into thick slices and return to the oven at 325 degrees and toast until pleasingly crunchy on each size. Embellish or not as desired. Some would dip in melted white or dark chocolate (I wouldn't), or a simple glaze scented with cinnamon or nutmeg or mace, or rose petals or lavender or rosemary or whatever sounds tasty to you. Experiment and let the rest of us hear your results, please?

  • njgigi
    Feb 14, 2017

    t looks like you sprinkled sesame seeds on top, or is that the sugar?? I think I'd like to make this today. Thank you.

  • momphyre
    Dec 14, 2015

    You may need to be Italian to appreciate this cofee cake. It is very plain but delicious. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but it is just like my mom's ciambella she made for 75 years. Thanks for sharing it.