Torta di Mele - Tuscan Apple Cake
I love this time of year when the apples are fresh and in season. This was something I treasured in Italy as well. Remember the story about Nara asking in the little grocery story for the best fresh apples to make her cake in the book? It's a very common cake that is made, especially in Tuscany. Every one has their favorite recipe.
I also have fond memories of making torta di mele during a cooking class that I took with a Michelin-star chef Helene Stoquelet from La Bottega del 30 in Villa a Sesta. The village was just down the road from San Gusme, so I could easily walk the 30 minutes or so to attend the cooking class. I had no idea that Helene was such a famous chef in the region. She was just lovely during our class, and later I would say hello to her in the local grocery as she would often shop in San Gusme. The memory of this experience is one that I treasure.
Here in Minnesota, it's apple season which makes it the perfect time to make this special cake. I love to use local apples that are tasty and crisp and add such a nice flavor to this cake with the combination of apple brandy and cinnamon. The recipe uses regular sugar, but I tried it also using brown sugar and it was really nice - almost like a caramel apple cake. I hope you love the recipe and that you're enjoying this special season just prior to Christmas.
Torta di Mele (Apple Cake) Ingredients 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. sea salt 6 Tablespoons butter (room temperature) ½ cup sugar 3 eggs (room temperature) 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest 1 Tablespoon vanilla 3 Tablespoons apple brandy 4-5 red apples (peel and cut 4 of them in small pieces. Save one apple, leave the skins on for color - core and cut in half , then cut into thin slices for the top of the cake) 1 tsp. cinnamon (plus a bit more for topping if you prefer)
Topping Apple slices
2 Tablespoons demerara or regular sugar ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional) Extra cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Steps · Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy (2-3 minutes). · Add the eggs and mix well. · Add the vanilla, apple brandy, and lemon zest and beat on medium high until well incorporated (about another 2 minutes). · In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mix well. · Add the dry ingredients to the egg/butter/sugar mixture and mix well (until it is smooth – about another 30 seconds). · Next, add the copped apples and mix well. · Use spray oil to coat a 8-10 inch springform pan or cake pan. · Place the batter into the pan and spread out evenly.
· Arrange thin sliced apple pieces artfully on the top of the batter. · Sprinkle the apples with the demerara sugar, additional cinnamon, and walnuts (if desired). · Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. · Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. · Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and remove from tin after it has cooled for at least an hour. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.