I was lucky enough this week, so far west of the Mississippi, to snap up some organic Cortland apples in superb condition.  These apples have a deep red color, with flashes of green, and snow white crisp flesh.  They are sweet-tart, and make a good baking apple.

I wanted to make an apple cake, mostly because I kept stumbling upon them online here and here.  But I wanted to keep it simple, and make sure the apples were center stage. I did not want to have to use a special pan.  I did not want too much spice, or too much sugar.  Again, the apples.

I found some recipes for Italian apple cakes, particularly this one, written charmingly by an Italian student new to English.  Pretty great for a first recipe in English, considering all the differences not only in language, but measurement system, etc.  It was apparently given to her by “an old farmer.”  I also smiled when I read her most most treasured kitchen possession is “a sort of pliers” to prevent holes in the food when turning or moving.  I love how learning a language makes our minds so resourceful and creative.  I adapted my recipe from this one, and rounded off the measurements a bit.  Also, I left out the lemon zest, but I am sure it would be lovely.

The batter is meant to be fairly thin, hence the range in the amount of milk.  The recipe I used for inspiration called for a whole cup of milk, but given this was the only measurement not in grams, I was suspicious.  It seemed like too much.  So I stopped at 1/2 cup.  Upon reading more recipes for torta di mele, I think some of these batters are meant to be almost crepe like, or pancake like.  I love how mine came out, it is near perfect, but I think there is room for variation here.  The beating of the yolks with the sugar is key, as is alternating the melted butter with flour additions.

Finally, I am so fond of rye.  Many of you may think of chewy rye bread from a deli, full of caraway seeds, and piled with corned beef.  But rye can be a delicate, nutty, and mysterious grain too– mixed here with some all-purpose wheat flour, some spice, and plenty of egg yolk to keep things tender and together.  You may remember my raspberry rye pancakes, which are so much better than whole wheat.  I think rye is grown in Russia and Poland, so probably not too common in Italian baking.  But traditional rye apple cakes, such as those eaten in Germany, are very dense and heavy, and dark with molasses. This is my fluffy, rich, and delicate Italian version. Buon appetito!

Torta di Mele

Inspired by MVLOVES recipe on Food52


  • 2-3 medium apples
  • ½ cup melted butter, cooled somewhat
  • ½ cup sugar (I used extra fine baker’s sugar)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 2/3 cup rye flour (such as Arrowhead Mills)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ to 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Peel and slice apples, set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside.
4. Combine sugar and egg yolks and whole egg, whisk until bubbly and pale yellow.
5. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl, and whisk until combined.
6. Add dry ingredients and butter in small amounts to egg mixture, alternating and starting and ending with dry ingredients.
7. Now gradually stir in the milk and vanilla, until smooth and creamy.
8. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9-inch cake pan. Tuck the apple slices into the batter.
9. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool and serve with a sprinkle of confectioners sugar.