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A rustic Italian grandma-style apple cake recipe, with lemon and pine nuts.
Here’s another apple dessert I want to share – it’s a quick, simple recipe that makes good use of fall’s apple bounty.
I made apple pie recently, but while I was browsing through some new cookbooks the cover image of a rustic apple cake on one of them – Dolci: Italy’s Sweets – drew me in right away. Of course I tinkered a little bit; I adjusted ingredients because I wanted to make a square cake in a larger pan (rather than the 8-inch round cake in the book) and added pine nuts for a more “Tuscan” flavor profile.
Surprisingly, the baking time for my cake is much less than the book’s recipe – 45 minutes rather than 75 minutes – even though I increased the volume of some ingredients. I’m not sure how to account for that except for the possibility there was a typo in the original.
This cake keeps very well for a few days covered on the kitchen counter, and I think it’s even better enjoyed on the second day along with morning tea or coffee.
Tuscan Apple Cake
- ¼ cup (60 ml) melted butter
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup (180 g) sugar
- 2 cups (560 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) fresh lemon zest, from about 2 small lemons
- 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
- 3 large (300 g) apples (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cored; one apple diced into chunks the other two thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) coarse sugar, such as turbinado
- Heat the oven to 350 (175 C) degrees.
- Line a 9-inch square baking pan with two strips of parchment paper so that the paper overhangs by a few inches all around. This will make the cake easy to remove for slicing later. You can skip the paper step if you want to cut and serve the cake right out of the pan. You can also use a 9-inch springform pan if you don't have a square one that size.
- Brush the lined pan or the unlined springform pan with some of the melted butter to coat all sides.
- Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer on medium-high speed, until the eggs become thick, pale and creamy. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a bowl.
- Lower the mixer speed to stir in the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the milk. Fold the diced apple into the batter.
- Scrape the batter into the pan. Arrange the sliced apples on top. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top of the cake and sprinkle evenly with the pine nuts and coarse sugar.
- Bake about 40-45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the center is firm when touched with a fingertip. Cool slightly before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.