Italian Apple Cake Recipe with Lemon (and Rosemary)

The inspiration for this Italian Apple Cake recipe came from a regional recipe published in a top Italian newspaper. There it was presented as a traditional dessert from the Umbria region of Italy. While we can’t confirm how traditional it is, this short Italian apple cake with lemon (and optional rosemary) is so delicious!

Similar to an Italian Almond Cake recipe, the base of this cake is a genoise cake batter, created by whipping whole eggs and sugar to a mousse-like consistency. Butter or olive oil is then added to create moistness and baking powder to compensate for the added fat, which will inevitably deflate the power of the whipped eggs to act as the only leavening agent.

Italian Apple Cake recipe—made with the optional rosemary, which we love!!

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Italian Apple Cake with Lemon: Tips

Tart ‘Granny Smith’ Apples are Best!

In our experience, tart apples really deliver for this Italian Apple Cake and pair wonderfully with the lemon.

Whip Eggs Till Pale

The biggest mistake you can make with this cake (as with any sponge cake like a pan di spagna or genoise) is under whipping the eggs. Whip the eggs with the sugar until they have at least doubled in volume, and are pale and mousse-like in consistency.

whip eggs until they are voluminous and pale

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Italian Apple Cake Recipe with Lemon (and Rosemary)

A bright and simple Italian Apple Cake with Lemon and (optional) Rosemary! A cake characteristic of the Umbria and Tuscany regions of Italy
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 people


  • stand or hand mixer for whipping the eggs
  • 9-inch round cake pan or non-stick springform pan


  • 3 whole eggs medium size
  • 1 large apple peeled, cut into thin slices; tart 'granny smith' varieties are the tastiest here.
  • 1 lemon juiced (for preventing apple slices from oxidizing)
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch fine salt
  • 2 ¼ cups flour cake or low protein all-purpose
  • 4 tbsp butter melted, then cooled
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary OPTIONAL; minced; more sprigs can be used to decorate the top of the cake


Make the Cake Topping

  • Zest and juice the lemon/s.
    1 lemon, 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • Peel and slice apples into 1/4 inch slices. Immediately drizzle in all the lemon juice to prevent browning and set aside.
    1 large apple

Make the Cake Batter

  • Combine together: Flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and minced rosemary (optional). Set aside.
    1 ½ tsp baking powder, 1 pinch fine salt, 2 ¼ cups flour, 2 tsp fresh rosemary
  • Melt the butter. Then combine the olive oil with the slightly cooled, melted butter.
    4 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Whip together: sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy and doubled in volume. 
    3 whole eggs, 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • Fold half of the flour mixture into the whipped eggs.
  • Slowly drizzle in all of the cooled, melted butter and oil. Fold in gently until incorporated. 
  • Fold in the rest of the flour mix.

Assemble the Cake

  • Spread batter evenly into a buttered 9-inch cake pan or non-stick springform pan. You can also use parchment paper at the bottom for easier removal after baking. 
  • Top with apple slices and sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional).  
  • Bake in a pre-heated 355° F (180° C) oven for 35-40 minutes. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Using a Stand Mixer?
Great! A stand mixer is ideally suited for making this cake. Whip the eggs and sugar with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until pale and voluminous. 
Then, drop the speed to a 2 or 3. Instead of folding in the dry ingredients and butter/oil you can simply alternate adding these ingredients a little at a time, letting the stand mixer incorporate them at low speed before adding more. 
In our experience, this method actually works better than manually folding in the ingredients, as we explain in our Angel Food Cake recipe!
Don’t Bring Over Too Much Lemon Juice with the Apple Slices
We want to add the lemon juice to the apple slices to give them an extra punch of flavor and to prevent them from oxidizing while preparing the rest of the cake. However, avoid bringing over a lot of lemon juice when you top the cake with the apple slices. Too much lemon juice on top will make the final cake a bit mushy on top. 
Keyword baking, sweet
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