Recipe Review

I Tried Dorie Greenspan’s Roman Breakfast Cake and I Can’t Wait to Make It Again

published May 6, 2022
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Credit: Laurel Randolph

I’m a big believer in dessert for breakfast. If it has fruit or cinnamon, it qualifies as breakfast. If a muffin can pass as a morning meal, so can a leftover slice of cherry pie or a square of cinnamon-streusel cake. Life’s short — why not have dessert for the first meal of the day?

These thoughts drifted through my head upon seeing Dorie Greenspan’s Roman breakfast cake in The New York Times Magazine as part of her regular On Dessert column. The photo showed a ring cake dotted with berries, with a lovely yellow slice sitting alongside a cup of tea. It looked very civilized without being fussy — the kind of cake you could serve to company.

I forgot about the cake for a period of time and then stumbled upon it on her website. After reading her lovely article about the Roman cake that inspired it all and her take on the dessert — described as not too rich, lemony, light, springy, and speckled with berries — I decided I finally need to make it and, more importantly, eat it. Here’s what happened when I made Dorie’s Roman breakfast cake.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

How to Make Dorie’s Roman Breakfast Cake

Dorie’s cake is much like a sponge cake. The recipe calls for six eggs; before beginning, make sure your eggs are at room temperature and separate the whites and yolks into two bowls.

Preheat the oven and generously grease and flour your baking pan. I used a tube pan, but you can use a Bundt pan if it’s well-greased (Dorie warns that this is a sticky cake). Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt until they form thick, glossy peaks. Scoop into another bowl and set aside.

Add sugar and lemon zest to the mixer bowl (no need to clean it) and rub them together until fragrant and yellow. Add the yolks and beat with the paddle attachment until thick, pale, and shiny. Add oil while mixing and beat for a few minutes. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon extract or oil. Beat and scrape down the bowl, then add the dry ingredients. Beat just until well-combined.

Whisk the egg whites to incorporate any liquid at the bottom and fold a few spoonfuls into the batter. Add the rest of the whites and gently fold in using a rubber spatula. Once mostly incorporated, add berries (if you’re using them) and fold them in. Add the batter to the pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then run a dull knife around the edge, remove the cake from the pan, and let it cool on a rack before serving.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

My Honest Opinion

Dorie Greenspan has never steered me wrong, and this lovely cake is no exception. Even though it used a few too many bowls, it was a joy to make. It’s fun to watch the egg yolks turn glossy and smooth, and it feels nice to rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers. It’s fun to whip the egg whites and then gently fold them into the batter, all the while pretending you’re a professional pastry chef. Plus, the cake smells wonderful as it bakes. It was an enjoyable task that yielded a satisfying result.

The cake itself is very light and airy, but with a bouncy springiness from the eggs. It’s somewhere between an angel food cake and a pound cake. It has a nice golden-brown (yet tender) crust and is just sweet enough. The lemon juice and zest lend the cake a citrusy aroma and flavor without making it tart. I included raspberries and blueberries in mine because I love them and thought they would be a tasty addition to the lemon-scented cake. I was right! The occasional pop of fruit was delightful.

While this cake is indeed well-suited to breakfast, Dorie herself points out that it’s a good anytime dessert, and I agree. And because it contains oil, it’s still moist and flavorful a few days later. It’s a cake for all occasions that I’m happy to add to my regular rotation.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

A Few Tips If You Make Dorie Greenspan’s Roman Breakfast Cake

  1. Use a tube pan. As Dorie says, this cake is a bit sticky. And while it came out relatively unscathed from my tube pan, I imagine running into real issues extracting it from a Bundt pan — especially if you include the berries.
  2. Don’t skip the berries. Speaking of, I loved this cake studded with fresh berries. Blueberries are especially good, as they’re a natural pairing with lemon, but any will do. I imagine you could use frozen fruit if you defrosted and drained it well and tossed it in a bit of flour.
  3. Dress it up. You can truly serve this cake anytime. Enjoy it at breakfast with a dollop of vanilla or plain yogurt on top. Dust with powdered sugar and have it with a cup of coffee or tea as an afternoon pick-me-up. Or serve it for dessert, topped with a swirl of sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.