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.
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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.
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Italian Apple Cake Recipe with Lemon (and Rosemary)
- 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.