Serves a Crowd

Rustic Italian Lemon Cake

May  9, 2012
0 Ratings
  • Makes 10-12 slices
Author Notes

This was inspired by a posting on a lovely blog,, where its author, Elaine, described a similar cake she tasted for breakfast one morning on the island of Capri. It comes together in minutes, and definitely makes a wonderful breakfast treat, as well as a perfect little something with afternoon tea (or champagne!). I added some polenta for its good rustic texture, and also thought some thyme would pair nicely with the lemon. And indeed it does. —boulangere

What You'll Need
  • 4 ounces room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces milk
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves (and if you have lemon thyme, all the better!)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar using a mixer fitted with the paddle. When light and fluffy, it’s safe to add the eggs.
  3. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup. It makes adding the eggs one at a time easy. With the mixer running on low speed, tip one egg at a time into the bowl and allow it to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Adding the eggs this way emulsifies the water in the whites into the butter and egg yolks, and keeps your cake nicely tender. After the eggs have both been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape all around the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again to incorporate everything.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and set a sieve over it. Measure the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into it. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl. If all the polenta won’t pass through, sift everything else, being sure to push any lumps through with your fingers, then dump the polenta in last. Add the milk, lemon zest and juice, and thyme. Mix on low speed just until all ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Brush the edges of an 8? or 9? cake pan with the melted butter. Place a circle of parchment in the bottom. Scrape in the batter – it will be thick, and that’s fine – then level it evenly.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springy when you tap the center with your fingers. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before your depan it. It’s lovely served warm with afternoon tea. Or with breakfast!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Giulia Condello
    Giulia Condello
  • mrslarkin
  • meganvt01
  • boulangere

9 Reviews

LLcsf May 17, 2015
I was looking for a good cornmeal breakfast cake; one not too buttery. This recipe was perfect and so very simple. Loved the addition of fresh thyme. Will add to my list of regulars. Thank you for sharing!
boulangere May 17, 2015
Thank you Linda. I'm so glad that you enjoyed.
Giulia C. October 17, 2014
ciambella means donut or even those bunt cakes with hole in the middle, ciambella refers to the shape :)
mrslarkin May 11, 2012
My mom and I made this cake yesterday. It's divine. Perfect with an afternoon (or morning) espresso. thanks for sharing, boulangere.
meganvt01 May 9, 2012
Mother's Day dessert! Thank you!
boulangere May 9, 2012
Very happy Mother's Day to you!
mrslarkin May 9, 2012
a slice of this and a cappuccino = heaven. Thanks for sharing, boulangere. Your instructions are exquisite.

My mom makes a cake similar to this called Ciambella. I grew up on this cake, and had it many times as breakfast, or after-school merenda (snack). I think I'll make your version with her tomorrow when I visit.
boulangere May 9, 2012
Oh, I'm honored to be visiting your mother, in a way. Do you know what Ciambella means? What a beautiful name. Enjoy your visit!
mrslarkin May 9, 2012
well, I've only ever known it to mean this type of rustic cake. The google translated it to "donut" but that's just not right. Bella means beautiful, so how about beautiful cake?