Easy Italian Apple Cake (Torta Di Mele)

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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!

Easy apple cake (torta di mele) on a white plate and marble background with an apple and a single piece on a plate from above

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!

This easy orange ricotta cake is another very easy and elegant Italian dessert! Try it some time as well!

a piece of easy apple cake (torta di mele) on a  white plate with more cake in the background on a white cake stand

About the ingredients

ingredients for easy apple cake (torta di mele)

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!).

2 side by side images showing overhead of mixing the batter for a simple Italian apple cake and then emptying it into the cake pan on a marble background.
easy apple cake (torta di mele) before it goes in the oven from above
Before baking…
closeup of an easy apple cake (torta di mele) on a cooling rack
After baking…

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.

Closeup of an easy apple cake (torta di mele) on a white plate

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)

How long does this cake keep?

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!

Can you freeze it?

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.

Can I use oil instead of butter?

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!

Can I make it in my air fryer?

Yes!

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. 

someone eating a piece of easy apple cake (torta di mele) with a fork on a white plate

More one bowl cakes/desserts

  • This mascarpone lemon cake is the easiest layer cake ever. It’s a perfect crowd pleasing choice for an afternoon tea or dinner party. Love lemon cakes? This lemon curd cake also makes a delicious dinner party dessert!
  • 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!
  • 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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closeup of sliced Easy apple cake on a white plate
4.78 from 86 votes

Easy Italian Apple Cake (Torta Di Mele)

If you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert that’s always a crowd pleaser, this easy Italian apple cake, or torta di mele, is it. You need just 6 ingredients and one bowl to make it, and it’s easy to make ahead or freeze.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

to serve

  • icing sugar for sprinkling over the top
  • cream, ice cream or custard (optional)

Instructions 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 355F / 180C (fan oven).
  • 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)

Notes

Number of apples to use: 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. You can’t really go too wrong!
If the cake starts to brown too much in the oven: If the apples start to brown a little too much, just cover the cake over with some aluminium foil for the last part of cooking. 
Cooking time: Based on reader feedback, if your oven runs a bit hot, your cake may be ready before 1 hour. The first time you make it, check after 45 minutes, then every 5 minutes after that! 
Freezing instructions: This cake freezes really well! If you’d like to freeze it, let cool completely then wrap in aluminium foil and/or a Ziploc bag before storing in the freezer.
When you want to serve it, let it defrost for a couple of hours, then warm slightly in the oven (if you like) by popping it into the oven on the ‘keep warm’ (or really low) setting for about half an hour.

Nutrition

Calories: 506kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 127mg, Sodium: 185mg, Potassium: 306mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 30g, Vitamin A: 715IU, Vitamin C: 15.1mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 1.8mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Helen Schofield

Don't expect to find anything fussy or complicated here. Just QUICK, EASY & (mostly!) HEALTHY recipes from the Mediterranean and beyond. ENJOY!

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104 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks so much! I turned it up at the 45min mark and it was absolutely delicious! I’ll definitely be making it again 😊

    1. Oh that’s a relief! So happy it still turned out well, but I will check the way I’ve worded that in the recipe card. Thanks again for pointing that out!

  2. Hi Helen,
    Just checking the 180 Celsius is in a fan forced oven or is it down to 160 Celsius in a fan force? I cooked this for 45 minutes at 160 in a fan force and it was pretty uncooked…whoops!

    1. Hello Debbie – oh yes it is 180 in a fan forced oven – I’m so sorry it wasn’t clearer! I will check the recipe again and make that more precise.

  3. 5 stars
    tastes delicious. Didn’t take quite as long to bake. Very authentic yet easy to prepare

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Margit. This can definitely take a little less time in a new oven that tends to run a bit hotter. I’m so glad you liked it and found it easy!

  4. I’m wanting to make double the recipe to serve 12. Do I still use the 8 inch pannor a larger one? Advice appreciated.

    1. Hello Janine! I’m so happy you’re going to try the recipe! The ‘safest’ approach would be to make two cakes in two 8 inch pans since I haven’t tried doubling the recipe. If you’d like to try making just one larger cake, you could still use an 8 inch round pan (or perhaps a little bigger) if it’s nice and deep (a springform pan would be great). Check it after the stated time for the original recipe, and go from there, checking every 5 minutes or so until done. I think it would work, but personally I would want to do a test run before the actual day (or make two to be safe!). Good luck and I hope everyone enjoys it!

      1. Thanks so much, Helen – looking forward to this lovely cake!

  5. Can you make up the recipe and leave it ready in the tin before baking – for a few hours? I would prefer to eat it warm so want to put it in the oven when my guests arrive so would like to premake it so it is ready to go
    Will it taste the same?

    1. Hello, Michelle, I haven’t tried that, but generally it’s not a good idea. The gluten in the flour might ‘overwork’ and the cake could end up tough or otherwise not as it should be. What I’d do instead is bake it before your guests arrive and then leave it to cool in the tin. You’ll find it will stay warm for a couple of hours at least, and if it’s not warm enough for you you can re-warm individual pieces in the microwave (just for around 20 to 25 seconds) – or even the whole thing in the oven on a really low heat (say 300F/150C but just for a few minutes – don’t overdo it). Let me know how you get on!

  6. 5 stars
    I found this recipe trying to use up 3 wrinkly old apples, and I’m so glad I did! It reminds me of when I lived in Germany the apple cake for “cafe und kuchen” each afternoon. I love that it’s not too sweet and the extra depth of flavor the lemon provides. I will definitely make this again!

    1. Hello Juli! This is the sort of comment that makes my day – thank you so much for taking the time! I agree that the lemon really makes this recipe. I’m so happy you’ll be making it again. 🙂