Torta di Mele (Apple Cake with Olive Oil) is the apple cake of my childhood, one of the few ones my mom would make (and still does). It is tender and delicious, made with olive oil and milk instead of butter, and a lot of apples.
Freshly picked apples from a neighbor's tree, peeled, chopped, and tossed in lemon juice are the stars of this simple, rustic Torta di Mele (Apple Cake with Olive Oil), scented with lemon-flavored olive oil, cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla.
Happy Birthday To Me
Tomorrow will mark my 51st birthday. They say time flies when you're having fun, and I surely was having a blast, because it seems yesterday that I was in my mother's kitchen, waiting for a freshly baked Torta di Mele to come out of the oven.
My mom's Torta di Mele
My mom would always make Torta di Mele with oil (peanut or olive) and never with butter, which I never saw in our fridge and which she avoided like the plague. The other ingredients would be milk, sugar but not too much, eggs, lemon juice and zest, flour (never weighed but always added "by eye and feel"), and baking powder. She would not add cinnamon, or vanilla, let alone cardamom, simply because she would not have them, thinking they are not a pantry staple.
She would bake Torta di Mele in a rectangular pan, the chopped apples in the batter (and not artistically arranged on top), no sugar sprinkled on top, nor icing sugar after. I would take care of the bowl, my finger fast to clean the batter before she could see me. Those minutes in the oven seemed interminable, until finally, out of the oven the Torta would come, and she would cut a square for each of us. We would eat it with our hands like we still eat crostata or other rustic cakes like these. No-fuss, no plates, and especially no fork.
The Flavors of My Childhood
Torta di Mele would taste like home, like most of my mom's other -few- baked goods: never too sweet, very lemon-scented, filled with fruit, unpretentious, sincere.
My Torta di Mele (Apple Cake with Olive Oil)
I tried to stay tried and true to my mom's Torta di Mele, however, I took some liberties.
- Among the main ingredients in common (flour, eggs, milk, olive oil, sugar, and baking powder), there is an array of fragrances and spices which I have come to love and that have become a staple in many of my baked goods: lemon of course, but also vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamom. You will be surprised -or maybe not- to see how amazingly they pair with apples.
- The second difference is that I used a large round springform pan because I prefer round cakes to angular ones. Nonetheless, one thing they both have in common. That Torta di Mele has to be a low cake, with just enough batter to 'hug' a lot of apples.
- Lastly, I sprinkled the cake with raw cane sugar before it hit the oven, a step my mother would have surely skipped. It gives such a nice texture, though, and since the cake has a few tart elements, it also brings a delightful sweetness.
How I tackle the making of a cake
- I first read the ingredients and all the steps of the preparation, right to the end. Make notes on the side if I want to make some adjustments.
- I have all the ingredients ready in ramekins/small bowls so that the preparation is smooth and I don't have to stop to weigh or go get that particular ingredient.
- For a simple cake like this one, I grab two bowls, a whisk, and a spatula, and divide the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in the other. Then, gently, fold the wet into the dry.
- In the case of a cake that involves apples (or pears, or any fruit that browns in contact with air), I slice/chop the apples, put them in a bowl, and toss them in lemon juice (it helps prevent oxidation).
Torta di Mele as my birthday cake??
As I said, tomorrow will be my birthday, and Loreto has big plans for me for the whole weekend. We ordered a cake from a famous local bakery we love, The Art of Cake, and I asked for a semi-naked Pumpkin Spice Cake with cream cheese icing. Pretty simple. In fact, you might remember I don't like icings and frostings on cakes. For that matter, I would have gladly put a candle on my Torta di Mele and called it a birthday cake 🙂 .
As a usual practice, I shared my Torta di Mele with neighbors, friends, and family. I wasn't sure about their reaction since it is a little different than the typical apple pie. However, after a few minutes from the delivery, my cell phone buzzed and the messages I received warmed my heart: "Beyond good. Thank you!"; "That piece of cake was yummy, thank you!"; "Thank you for the yummy dessert. Amazing". Loreto said it was "like candy and dessert all in one bite. The crust with that remarkable texture and the cake and apples a comfort and delectable treat." He may be biased but his lip-smacking was a good indication that he truly enjoyed it.
Share the love. Our motto.
- about 4 regular apples (or 5-6 small/medium apples)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice + 1 tsp lemon zest, for the apples
- 200 g flour type 00 (or all-purpose)
- 120 g raw cane sugar + more for sprinkling on top of the cake
- pinch of salt
- a pinch of cardamom
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 10 g baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 80 g olive oil
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 5 tablespoons milk
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C) and butter a 26 cm (10 in.) springform cake pan.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, pinch of salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
- Use an apple slicer to core and divide the apples into slices. Remove the skin and cut each slice in half lengthwise. Or chop them, as you most like. Place the apples in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and zest.
- In a medium bowl, add the eggs, olive oil, vanilla, and milk. Beat well.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a spatula to combine.
- Before it is all combined, add the sliced/chopped apples with their juices and fold in.
- Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan, spreading and smoothing the top with the spatula.
- Optional, sprinkle the top with raw cane (turbinado) sugar.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is nice and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack before removing from the springform pan.
You can use a mild olive oil, or a lemon-flavored olive oil.
This apple cake is very low on purpose. For a taller cake use a smaller pan.
The cake keeps in an airtight container for 2-3 days without losing its beautiful moist texture.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: apples, fall, eggs, olive oil, spices, baked, homemade, traditional, Italian, simple
I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.