There is undoubtedly a special recipe for torta di mele in every family living on planet Earth. It is the ultimate
comfort cake: the one that means family, love, cuddles, tradition and history; and it inevitably brings back memories of our grannies who used to make it for us when we were children. We all have our own favourite version.
I have eaten countless yummy apple cakes over the years and the memories of so many of them have stayed with me — for different reasons. The Dutch, the French, the British, the German and the occasional impromptu versions made by friends wanting to use up some apples lost and forgotten in the fruit basket.
But guess what. Italians, too, have their own torta di mele, and the recipe I am sharing today is the only one that ticks all the boxes for me: it is soft as no other apple cake I have tried in my life is.
Not only that. The apples are not just scattered on top, or chopped and included in the mixture. In this version the slices are sunk tidily into the batter, close to each other. They stand up straight, like little soldiers, covering the whole height of the cake.
And then, dulcis in fundo, the magical ingredient used in this recipe: cream. SHABAM SHUBUM (I just made that sound up, but it seems to convey my meaning). This ingredient gives the cake an unusual level of softness, like a cloud, that will make you want to bake it at least once a week.
Recently I made it for George and we both devoured it in the garden on a sunny day. It was our way to welcome the English summer (it lasted about one week…), eating a good meal outside, enjoying the warm air and the sun on our faces. We ate slowly, looking at the plant that was starting to blossom… and another one that had died back in winter and was waking up after a long, cold winter. We felt happy.
Sometimes spending a Sunday at home, doing a bit of gardening, reading, cooking, baking and just soaking up the light and the silence is what we both need to recharge our batteries and focus on what really matters.
Eating a slice of torta di mele in the afternoon was just the perfect way to end a beautiful day.
Serves 8 – 10
- 3 medium-sized red apples
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 3 medium-sized eggs
- 150g caster sugar
- 50ml sunflower oil
- 200ml single cream
- 200g plain flour, sifted
- 1 sachet pane degli angeli If you can’t get hold of this, you could try with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of salt, sift them all together and add at the end, straight after the cream). I haven’t tested this myself as I only bake with pane degli angeli. So please let me know if it works so I can update the recipe
- 1 full teaspoon of ground cinnamon and one of icing sugar (maybe slightly more, depending on your taste)
- Butter and extra flour to line a round cake tin of 24cm diameter
- Icing sugar for dusting
Line the cake tin with some butter and dust it lightly with flour. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
Wash the apples and dry them well. Cut them into halves and peel them. Take the stalks off and remove the seeds in the middle. Chop them into wedges, transferring them to a bowl as you go. As you move them to the bowl, squeeze some lemon juice on top (so they won’t turn dark). Once all the slices are in the bowl, add the sugar and mix well. Set aside.
In a large bowl whip the eggs and sugar with an electric hand mixer for a couple of minutes until they are well incorporated and you obtain a pale and smooth mixture, doubled in size.
Add the oil gradually and mix with the mixer on the lowest speed. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour and mix well.
Gradually add the cream and incorporate it with the mixer on the lowest speed. Incorporate the rest of the flour in 2 or 3 batches until you obtain a dense, smooth mixture.
Finally sift the baking powder (pane degli angeli) and add to the mixture. Incorporate evenly using the mixer.
Adding the apples
Pour the mixture into the tin. Place one wedge at a time into the batter, around the outside, in a spiral pattern: push them until they touch the bottom. They will then stay straight. Complete the first round, then the second closer to the centre, and finally the third, which is the smallest and won’t have space for many slices.
Mix the cinnamon with the icing sugar and sprinkle all over the surface.
Place the cake tin in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. It will be ready when the wooden stick you insert in the middle of the cake comes out clean. As always, time varies from oven to oven. It may take your cake 35 or 40 minutes, or a little bit longer than 45.
When it’s ready, turn the oven off, open the door and leave the cake for another 2 minutes before taking it out. Leave it to cool in the tin.
Once cooled, take it out of the tin and move it to a serving plate. Sprinkle with some icing sugar and, if you are a cinnamon lover, perhaps you can add an extra sprinkle of that, too.
This is a cake that works for any time of the day and occasion: for breakfast, for your tea break, or to serve as pudding for your Sunday lunch, with the addition of single cream to pour over a generous slice.
George loves pretty much all the cakes I have been making for him but last time he had a slice of this one, he said something unusual: this cake tastes like those dreamy cakes you get in some of those very smart, high-end patisseries. I took that as a definite compliment and in a way I agree. This is an outstanding cake that deserves to be made again and again, to celebrate and to spoil those you love — or yourself!
Bless nature for allowing apple trees to grow and for all the wonderful apples we get to eat. Aren’t apples amazing?
Besides, una mela al giorno… toglie il medico di torno! An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
So imagine the miracles that a cake made with 3 apples will perform… ha!