Here in Vermont, and in most places in New England, apples have become a staple of our daily diets. We are surrounded by 360º views of gorgeous mountains all year long, but during the fall, we are surrounded by equally impressive mountains of local apples. Apples have become the appetizer, dessert and study snack of my days (which may explain how I’ve managed to avoid contracting the freshman plague) and yet there is STILL an overflowing bowl of them perched on my mini-fridge. 

apple, juice, sweet, pasture
Kristine Mahan

So, to resolve this dilemma, naturally I called up my Italian grandmother, aka Nonna Giovanna, to ask what she would do. She told me–or affectionately shouted at me as is the Italian way– the recipe for her famous apple cake, known as ciambellone alle mele (pronounced cham-bell-OH-neh AL-eh meh-leh). During apple season, my Nonna makes this cake every Sunday to supply a week’s worth of breakfasts for my family and the warm, comforting aroma emanating from her kitchen always manages to fill the whole house. She has been making this breakfast cake for so long that she hasn’t needed to look at a recipe in decades. This recipe–or ricetta– is practically a family heirloom sent all the way from her kitchen to yours.

beer, tea
Isabella Alessandrini

Making a ciambellone alle mele is the perfect way to use up some of those extra apples, especially any that may have become less than crisp. The whole wheat flour makes it heartier and will give you some long-lasting energy to power through those early AM classes, especially if you don’t have the time or swipes left to stop at a dining hall. It pairs beautifully with your morning cappuccino, or any coffee you drink, and, yes, dunking is a must. You can also add a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top for a taste of la dolce vita.

coffee, cappuccino, espresso, milk, mocha, cream, chocolate
Isabella Alessandrini

The smell of this breakfast cake while it was baking was a form of aromatherapy for me in itself, conjuring up memories of Italy and my family that I miss on a daily basis. But you certainly don’t have to be Italian to enjoy this cake, I promise! Just pop it in the microwave before an early class and–Mamma mia!– you’ll be lured out of the snuggly cocoon of your comforter and be ready to face the day.  

cake, sweet, pastry, cream, pancake, pie, sauce
Isabella Alessandrini

Ciambellone alle Mele

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:40 mins
  • Total Time:50 mins
  • Servings:8
  • Medium


  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or coconut oil
  • 5 small eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2-3 medium sized apples
  • Cinnamon for dusting on top optional
Isabella Alessandrini
  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 340º F.

  • Step 2

    Crack the eggs in to a medium sized bowl and whisk them until they are well integrated.

  • Step 3

    Pour in the oil, then the sugar and mix it well.

  • Step 4

    Next, add all of the flour, lemon zest and the yeast into the mixture. Stir until you get a smooth batter.

  • Step 5

    Peel the apples, core them, and then cut them into wedges. You should get about 6 wedges per apple. Fold the apples into the batter.

  • Step 6

    For the true ciambellone experience, use a greased 10 inch Bundt pan like my Nonna does. However, if you don’t have one of these, a regular 10 inch circular cake pan will work just fine. Pour the batter into the form.

  • Step 7

    Feel free to slice up any extra apples you have to decorate the top of the cake. Get creative!

  • Step 8

    Put the ciambellone into the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until whenever an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

  • Step 9

    Take out the ciambellone and dust it with cinnamon (optional).

  • Step 10

    Mangia, mangia!