This easy Italian apple cake is a perfect make ahead dessert for any time of year. Otherwise known as ‘torta di mele’, it’s a classic Italian cake recipe – a speciality of Italian grandmas everywhere!
Made with fresh apples, this apple cake is light, moist, not too sweet, and looks pretty on top. The best part? It’s so simple! Make it all in one bowl with just 6 main ingredients and 15 minutes of hands-on time!
What’s torta di mele and why you’ll love it
A torta di mele (alternatively called torta di mela, torta mele or torte di mela!) is a very simple and rustic Italian apple cake. It’s a classic Italian dessert that everyone’s nonna (‘grandma’ in Italian!) has a recipe for!
My version of the torta di mele might not be the most traditional, but it is one of the easiest – great for novice bakers or for children to help with!
Here’s what else I love about it:
✔ You only need a few ingredients (6 main) and 15 minutes’ prep time. I can sometimes make this without even going to the supermarket, so it’s also very affordable!
✔ It’s made all in one bowl. No separating of eggs or beating of butter and sugar necessary – just melt the butter, then mix all the ingredients together.
✔ It’s moist, light and fluffy, and has plenty of flavor. It’s packed full of apple slices and has a subtle lemony kick! Mmm.
✔ It’s pretty low in sugar, as cakes go. You’ll only need half a cup!
✔ It looks so pretty with the fresh apples and generous sprinkle of pine nuts and icing sugar arranged on top. Everyone will think you spent all day making it!
✔ You can make it ahead, so it’s perfect for entertaining.
✔ This classic Italian treat is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t like apple cake?
That’s what I call an easy dessert!
About the ingredients
Flour: I use self-raising flour, which means you don’t need any baking powder. If you don’t have any of this, simply use plain flour and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
White sugar: Just half a cup! Keeping things light(ish) here…
A lemon: You’ll use both the grated lemon zest and juice. You’ll be amazed how well a bit of lemon goes with apple!
3 eggs: Lightly whisk and you’re done.
Butter: Melted, which means no creaming of butter and sugar! All you do is stir everything together with a wooden spoon.
Apples: Of course! I usually go for tart green apples such as Granny Smiths, but use any fresh, crisp and tasty apples you like.
Available apples will depend on where you live, of course. Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Cox and Bramley are just some of the types of apples that will taste great and hold their shape well while cooking.
Cinnamon: Just a teaspoon. It’s also optional, but I think it’s worth adding it in for just a hint of yummy extra flavour.
Pine nuts: A few in the cake mix, and more on the top, which brown in the oven. These take this humble cake from good to amazing! On the other hand, if you want to make this at the last minute and don’t have any pine nuts, it’s absolutely fine to skip them.
Icing sugar (powdered sugar): Just a bit, for a final dusting on top of the cake to serve.
How do you make a torta di mele?
The step-by-step guide below should help you make the recipe perfectly first time. Scroll down to the end for the full recipe including ingredient amounts.
This really is the easiest apple dessert recipe you can imagine. Here’s how you make this delicious Italian cake in a few simple steps.
Step 1: Line a round baking pan with baking paper and pre-heat the oven. You can use a springform pan (with a loose bottom) or just a regular round cake pan.
Step 2: Melt the butter in the microwave. The melted butter will help you get a rich, soft and moist cake.
Step 3: Mix all the ingredients together, including 2/3 of the thinly sliced apples.
Step 4: Empty the apple mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange the remaining apples on top, plus a scattering of pine nuts (optional), and bake for around an hour. The cake is done when a skewer poked into the center comes out pretty clean (no raw batter!).
Step 5: Just before serving, use a sieve to sprinkle some icing sugar over the top. Serve warm or cold, by itself (the traditional way!), or with ice cream or whipped cream on top.
I told you this was a simple apple cake. The biggest job is peeling and chopping the apples!
Just love apple desserts? Try this apple crumble pie with oats, or this delicious sticky apple and ginger cake.
Helen’s top tips
- How many apples? I vary the number of apples I use to make this cake. If they’re small apples, I’ll use 4. If they’re big e.g. Granny Smith apples, I usually use just two and a half apples. If they’re medium apples, about 3 is right! Just eye-ball it. This cake recipe is very forgiving, so you can’t really go too wrong!
- As always, don’t overmix the batter. Just mix gently with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated.
- If your cake starts to brown too much while it’s in the oven, just cover the cake over with some aluminium foil for the last part of cooking.
- Try ‘making the recipe your own’. Add other fruits along with the apples e.g. pear, raspberries, blueberries, or replace the pine nuts with flaked almonds, crushed hazelnuts or pistachios instead. Or feel free to skip the nuts altogether for a nut-free version.
How to serve
The most traditional way to serve a torta di mele is by itself, warm or cold. It makes a fantastic cake to serve to guests with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
I love serving mine as a warm dessert with either ice cream or whipped cream, however. It’s just delicious that way! If you’re in the UK or Australia, you might like to serve it with custard instead!
Feel free to skip the pine nuts on top, but I always add the sprinkle of icing sugar. It’s such a simple touch, but will make your cake look so much prettier. Your guests will think you spent all day making it!
More things to know (FAQs)
This cake keeps pretty well for a few days if kept in an airtight container in the fridge. It might be a little more moist after a day or two, but will still have great flavor. In fact, I think it tastes even better the next day!
Oh, absolutely! This simple Italian apple cake is a very freezer friendly cake. If I want to freeze it I let the cake cool completely, then wrap it securely in foil and/or a large Ziploc bag for up to 3 months.
To serve, simply defrost for a couple of hours, then reheat in the oven before serving. You don’t want it to dry out though, so I usually just warm it on the ‘keep warm’ setting for half an hour or so.
Actually, yes! Just stick with the same amount as the amount of melted butter you’d use – so half a cup. The cake will have a different flavour, and have a slightly lighter crumb, but that’s OK. Try olive oil!
If you have a large oven style one that will fit in a regular sized cake pan just follow the recipe as written but reduce the temperature slightly (about 25F or 15C) and reduce the time by 25 to 30%. So I’d start by baking for about 40 minutes. Check if it’s done and then keep checking every few minutes after that. Check the bottom too – sometimes I find the bottom takes a bit longer to cook in an air fryer. You might need to flip it for a few minutes towards the end of the cooking time.
If you only have a small air fryer, then I’d use a smaller pan – the same one as for this air fryer banana bread recipe. Check to see if it’s done after 30 minutes.
More one bowl cakes/desserts
- You really can’t go wrong with this 6-ingredient gooey Swedish chocolate cake. It’s make ahead, the easiest dessert you can imagine, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love it.
- This mascarpone lemon cake is the easiest layer cake ever. It’s a perfect crowd pleasing choice for an afternoon tea or dinner party.
- If you like the idea of a butterscotch, white chocolate and crunchy cookie combo, these one-bowl Biscoff blondies are the stuff dreams are made of!
- This sticky apple and ginger cake is like a cross between gingerbread and apple cake. And yes, also made in one bowl!
- Last but not least, you have to try these 7 layer bars with pecans (otherwise known as magic bars) at least once in your life.
Or see all my easy cakes.
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Easy Italian Apple Cake (Torta Di Mele)
Equipment (affiliate links)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 1 cup self-raising flour (Alternatively, use all-purpose flour and add 2 teaspoons baking powder.)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 lemon rind and juice
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 4.5 ounces butter melted (½ cup or a stick – alternatively, use ½ cup oil)
- 4 apples (Or 2.5 to 4 apples (see note below), depending on size, peeled & sliced thinly)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon optional
- ¾ cup pine nuts ½ cup in batter, ¼ cup on top – optional
- Icing sugar for sprinkling at the end
- icing sugar for sprinkling over the top
- cream, ice cream or custard (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 355F / 180C.
- Line an 8 inch round cake pan with baking paper and lightly grease with butter or spray with oil.
- Zest and juice the lemon and set the zest aside. Put the chopped apples in a small bowl and pour the lemon juice over them.1 lemon, 4 apples
- Combine the flour, sugar and lemon zest together in a large bowl, then add the eggs, melted butter, cinnamon & pine nuts (if using) and 2/3 of the apples. Stir until just combined.1 cup self-raising flour, ½ cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 4.5 ounces butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¾ cup pine nuts, 1 lemon
- Tip the batter into the cake pan and smooth on top, then arrange the rest of the sliced apples on the top in a circle pattern (see photos in post and recipe video). Sprinkle over extra cinnamon (optional) and the rest of the pine nuts (if using).
- Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Check after 45 minutes, then every 5 minutes after that.
- Cool, then sprinkle with a bit of icing sugar before serving. Serve slightly warm or cold alone or with ice cream or whipped cream.icing sugar for sprinkling over the top, cream, ice cream or custard (optional)
I love your measuring cups! May I ask where you sourced them from?
Hello Heather! Thank you! I love those, too! I actually found them a number of years ago from a shop called Lakeland in the UK. I just checked to see if they still have anything similar and I’m afraid they don’t! However, I just check on Amazon and there are some similarly beautiful cups there! https://www.amazon.com/s?k=ceramic+measuring+cups&crid=KX4LBZRGN6QA&sprefix=ceramic+measuring+cups%2Caps%2C690&ref=nb_sb_noss_1
Hi Helen, lovely to hear from you, and thank you so much for the info. I remember Lakeland very well from my years living in the UK, but will check out the ones listed on Amazon. The good news is that I googled them and found that Target AU stock almost the identical cups! Isn’t that the best news? See https://www.target.com.au/p/nara-stoneware-measuring-cups/63368833
You’ll be pleased to know that we will be attempting to cook your Greek chicken and potatoes for Chrissy, followed by your San Sebastian cheesecake! Such excitement! We decided to ditch the usual Christmas fare in favour of past memories, stirred up by your own. Will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, have a mega Christmas yourself and the very best and happiest of new years. 😀
That IS the best news, Heather! I will have to check out Target to see what else they have! Also that is the greatest compliment ever that you chose some of my recipes to make for Christmas. I really hope they turned out well! Happy New Year!
Grace Pilditch says
I made this cake using vegetable oil not Britter and followed the recipe exactly. I’m not sure why it didn’t turn out moist and as I’d expected but was rather dry and unappetising. I served cream with it . Maybe custard would have been better.
Sorry to hear that, Grace. The butter does add a lot of flavor. I usually find this cake to be lovely and moist so could be worth trying again with the butter? Also perhaps check 5 to 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, in case it’s ready before the stated time. Definitely is not usually dry! 🙂
I have made this cake three times this week , twice with with apples – vey yummy . Today I have made it with sliced ripe bananas- very , very yummy !I used 100 g flour and 25 g ground almonds , sunflower oil instead of butter . I find that 45 mins @ 180 cooks the cake to perfection , but perhaps my oven runs a tad hot . I love all your recipes , you are my “go to “ when I need a bit of inspiration 😀
Thank you so much for the feedback, Pat! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying this so much. I love the sound of your substitutions, especially the banana! Thanks also for the feedback on the timing. I think my new oven is running a bit hot too so I’ll make this again soon and see if I get the same result 🙂
Delicious. Made it, froze it, defrosted and warmed in the oven. Served with vanilla ice cream. One to make again and again.
Aw, thank you for the great feedback Carol – I appreciate it more than you can know! I’m so happy you like it enough to make it again 🙂
AMAZING Apple desert. Really the best thing I’ve ever baked with apples. Thank you Helen for another great desert!!
Aw, what a huge compliment! Thank you so much for the feedback, Nicky. It’s made my day that you enjoyed it so much. 🙂
Raymonde ADAIMI says
So easy and moist!!!loved it…I put 100g of butter and 1/4 tsp cinnamon..thank you!
Hi Raymonde. Thank you so much for the feedback. I’m so happy you liked it!
Eleni ARGYROPOULOS says
I just put the cake in the oven….
I would like to ask some clarifications for some bumps I met along the way.
Are the eggs large eggs or medium eggs?
Also as for the apple, could we get the quantity in grams?
I just kind of did it by the eye as we say in Greece.
I will let you know how it goes
Hello Eleni! Awww I miss Greece so much! I’m so glad you’ve given this cake a go. I hope it came out well and you enjoyed it! The eggs are large. I always use 700 gram boxes of eggs which here in Australia are labelled extra large but I know it’s not always the same as this in every country. In any case use large, but I don’t think it will be a disaster if you use medium. Most of my recipes are very forgiving! 😉 Next time I make this cake, I’ll also try to pin down the exact grams for the apples and update the recipe. It’s actually absolutely fine to ‘do it by eye’ but I understand you wanting me to be a bit more specific! Do let me know how you got on – I’m always open to feedback from readers and find it really helpful to hear how people went and see if any updates are needed to the recipe. 🙂
ToniAnn Montione says
Hi! I made this for some friends and coworkers – they absolutely raved! I used All Purpose Flour and added a tsp of baking powder. As a slight variation, I used sliced almonds rather than the pine nuts. It was delicious. My friends are already thinking of different fruits they’d like me to try with this cake!
Hello ToniAnn! Thank you SO much for the feedback. I’m sooo happy this was such a hit with your friends. I love your idea of using almonds instead of pine nuts. Actually, other nuts such as crushed hazelnuts would work too. I actually think a whole load of different fruits would work well, including canned fruit. I’m thinking peach, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, little mandarin segments even. Have fun experimenting and thanks again 🙂
I have made it three times now and it’s so easy and such a hit with everyone and so yummy looking. I am such a lousy cake maker but this just worked for me
Thanks so much
Hello Margaret! I’m so happy this has made you feel like a star baker (which you are of course!). This is my favourite kind of recipe – the kind that always seem to work out even if you do it a little differently each time. Another recipe I find is like this is my Greek yoghurt blueberry muffins – just in case you’d like to give those a try too! 😉
I made this twice last week, and put whipped cream on top – delicious.
Today I am making it again for guests. It’s a lovely cake, and I used a combination of Granny Smith and Gala apples. Sweet and sour. We can buy small bags of self-raising flour here in Canada, but it’s expensive. I used regular flour, and added one teaspoon of baking powder and it made for a nice risen cake.
Another keeper recipe. Thank you Helen.
Hello Yvonne! Thank you so much for your feedback, and it’s really helpful to know using plain flour plus baking powder works fine. I find this one of those cakes that you almost can’t go wrong with – so glad you like it!