This month, we’re featuring baked snacks, and Skye of From My Dining Table, who grew up in Venice, Italy, has agreed to share her recipe for a delicious Italian apple cake she loved as a child…

Italian Apple Cake with Mascarpone and Amaretti
by Skye McAlpine of From My Dining Table

There’s a certain feeling that comes with the dawning of autumn. It’s that back-to-school feeling that somehow stays with you long after you’ve stopped actually going to school. It always creeps up on me—as the days grow cooler, then shorter, and as the leaves on the trees begin to turn golden, one by one. It’s a nostalgia of sorts: a longing for summer to never end, but also a flurry of excitement deep inside. Autumn, with its soft, muted colors, and that breathless whisper of winter, is a wonderfully romantic time of year.

Torta di Mele—or apple cake—is a classic autumnal Italian cake; it’s the kind of food that you grow up with and never grow out of. It’s comfort food. Every Italian mamma has her own recipe for torta di mele—one that she perfects over time—that she will bake when apples are in full season and serve, still warm from the oven for merenda at teatime.

I’ll confess that I’m no exception: Torta di mele is one of my favorite teatime treats and I find myself craving it year round, even when apples aren’t in season. My version is deliciously simple. I don’t even peel the fruit, just slice it roughly and toss in a bowl with a generous dollop of mascarpone—which keeps the cake light and airy—and a few spoonfuls of dark muscovado sugar, that caramelize nicely in the oven. Then—and this is the best bit—I crumble a few amaretti biscuits, sweet and almond-y, into the batter.

Recipe: Italian Apple Cake with Mascarpone and Amaretti

What you’ll need:

For the cake:
3 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar (I use muscovado sugar)
8.8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 3/4 cup self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 medium apples
2.8 oz amaretti biscuits

For the decoration (optional):
1 apple
1 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp water
A few amaretti biscuits
1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cake tin and line with parchment paper. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until they become pale and fluffy—you want them to be a light, lemon-y color. Slowly pour in the sugar. Keep beating with a whisk until the mixture is dark and smooth, like molasses. Next, spoon in the mascarpone and use a wooden spoon to mix it in nicely so that you have a lovely smooth, light-colored batter.

Sift the flour and the salt and stir with the wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients are well combined. Now, set the mixing bowl to one side while you roughly slice the apples. Try to keep the slices as thin as you can. (You can peel them if you prefer, but I find that the skin gives a nice texture to the cake.) Spoon the apple slices into the bowl with the dry ingredients, then gently fold them into the batter.

Pour half the mixture into the tin and use the back of the wooden spoon to smooth it over, so that it’s evenly spread across the bottom of the tin. Take the amaretto biscuits and roughly crumble them over the tin, then pour the rest of the batter over and spread it out.

You can bake the cake just like that, but I sometimes like to top it with a few apple slices, mostly for decoration. Core and quarter an apple, then thinly slice the quarters to get thin apple wedges, gently press them on top of the cake in whatever pattern you like—I fan them around the outer edge of the cake in a big circle. Warm the apricot jam and a little water in a small saucepan for a few minutes, until the jam becomes like syrup—then lightly glaze the apple slices with the jam.

Put the tin in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until it’s golden brown on top and when you insert a knife, the blade comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool a little in its tin, then turn it out on to a plate. Crumble a few amaretti biscuits over the cake and sprinkle with a little icing sugar before eating.

Thank you so much, Skye!

P.S. More recipes, including olive oil cake, caramel apple pie and apple crisp.

(Photos and recipe courtesy of Skye McAlpine. Thanks to Caroline Donofrio for helping with this series.)