Italian Apple Cake

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.)

  1. This looks delicious

  2. I made this for Thanksgiving for my inlaws and they loved it! It was amazingly delicious. We had it for breakfast with coffee the day after. :)

  3. Love this! I was an au pair in Venice years ago and the family’s nonna made this kind if cake and I’ve always wanted a good recipe! Thanks..

  4. This cake is everything my heart longs for. Love Skye’s work and love this post!

  5. This is beautiful, Skye. I love the nice addition of Mascarpone here, I have never tried in apple cake – the one going around my family was more Spartan, let’s say :) – but I am sure it makes such a welcome addition, and gives a nice moisture to the crumb? I must try! xx

  6. Sounds delicious!

  7. Hi Joanna!I?m Italina, and you’re sooo right!
    My mummy’s apple cake is different from all the other apple cake I’ve tasted!
    Thank you for this post!

  8. Hi Salome! Yes, that should be fine – you just might find that the cakes comes out a little deeper or slimmer according to the size of the dish. :)

  9. This looks delicious! I’m going to have to make this this weekend.

    Growing up in Venice must have been amazing! Skye must have some amazing stories. What a culture shock it also much have been to leave.

  10. jm says...

    this one looks good!

  11. I’m so looking forward to trying this! Question – Can this be made in a different sized baking dish? An 8″ square baking dish or a 7″x 11″ one?
    Thank you!

  12. jm says...

    I really want to make this! I love all apple cakes.

  13. One of the reason I love fall. I get the urge to bake an apple pie.


  14. Maybe I have a touch of Italian in me (oh, I wish!), as I keep making this apple cake that has been with me since school kitchen when I was 11! I’m definitely trying this Italian version, though. Anything with mascarpone is a must to try out!

  15. I’m not a fan of pumpkin flavored anything and was searching for an appropriate substitute for Thanksgiving sweetness — My husband and I are celebrating our first thanksgiving as a married couple by having a quiet dinner, just the two of us — well the two of us and this apple cake.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. I’ve been living in Europe the past few years and missing all my American kitchen appliances (stand mixer, food processor, blender, etc). I notice that in European recipes things are usually done by hand (kneading dough, stirring). It’s refreshing but also a workout! (FYI – a Kitchenaid mixer in France can cost about $1000 for the same model I paid $200 in the US)

  17. This look so so good! I adore Italian style apple cake, and I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks a lot for sharing :)

  18. Is self rising flour cake flour?

  19. hi meredith! yes, the apples are added to the bowl with the dry ingredients, then everything is mixed together. thank you!

  20. Yes, what a different take on the traditional apple cake. I must say, this looks amazing.

  21. Yumm! I tried the apple dutch apple baby from this month’s bon appetite. I was so disappointed but have been looking for another fairly easy apple recipe. This looks great!
    In Dramatic Fashion

  22. Yay!!! A cake recipe that needs no mixer! Jus got me some french apples today so gonna try this! Hip hip hurray joanna!

  23. This looks delicious! I’m confused, we have set aside the dry ingredients, but it doesn’t look like they are ever mixed in? Do they get added to the wet ingredients when the apples are added? Or after? Thanks.