The no-fat apple cake discovery
My parents-in-law were over from Italy in the weekend, and while they were here, for my pleasure (and soon to be for yours!), my mother-in-law showed me how to make this deceptively healthy cake called torta di mele. I say deceptively healthy as after all, it is a cake, and with cakes, you can only go so far along the healthy route, but it does have an advantage that it has no fat in it. That’s right folks: no butter and no oil! It is basically cooked apple held together with a tiny bit of cake, rather than a cake with a bit of apple in it. Don’t for a minute think, “But I want something richer and more dessert-like”! This cake tastes rich and will satisfy your craving for something sweet, while also satisfying that whole “eat more fruit” thing that those do-gooder people (like mothers and doctors) always keep insisting on.
Cookbooks with strange names
My mother-in-law, the famous Bianca from the fabulous recipe “Carote di Bianca“, told me that she got this recipe for torta di mele (apple cake) in 1975 from a cookbook in a weekly series called “Jolly della Buona Cucina“…….which I figure is old enough to make it a classic. Before you start imagining that the word “jolly” was used to make you think of laughing, fat chefs, in Italian it is the name used for the Joker in a pack of cards, so the title actually does makes sense! To “play the Jolly” is to make the winning move, so this cake therefore is a winner!
It’s all about the apples
As you can see from the photos above, there is actually very little “dough” in the torta di mele and LOTS of apple. So, don’t panic when you make it, as it is supposed to be like that! Don’t worry, as it will all turn out well in the end. It is a very moist cake, and depending on the type of apples you use, the moistness and the sweetness can vary. For this cake I used a mixture of Granny Smith and Fuji apples. If you have very sweet apples, you may want to drop the amount of sugar a little. If you have very juicy apples, well, then you’re lucky! 🙂 Bianca said that she often uses Golden Delicious apples to make the cake, and so doesn’t sprinkle sugar on top as they are very sweet already.
So, all I can say before I finish up is: This cake is totally worth making!
I would like to add here that a few people have been trying this recipe with mixed results. A few said that the cake took over an hour to cook and it seemed that the batter didn’t set. I think if your apples are too juicy, the cake will be very wet and seem as if it isn’t cooked. I remade it, using only Golden Delicious apples, and it came out perfectly, so I can tell you for sure that they are perfect for the cake. Using these apples, this cake took 45 minutes to cook in a fan oven at 160°C. When I made it with a mixture of Granny Smith and Fuji apples, it took 55 minutes to cook at the same temperature.
For a different kind of apple cake, try this recipe. It is for an apricot cake but I’ve substituted the apricots for apples very successfully.
By Lisa Watson
Italian fat-free apple cake
- 150 g Flour 1 1/4 cups
- 100 g White sugar 6 Tbsp
- 1 sachet 3 tsp Baking powder
- 1 Egg
- 175 ml Milk 3/4 cup
- 1 kg Apples 2 lbs
- Salt a pinch
- Butter a 25cm diameter cake tin, then sprinkle breadcrumbs on the bottom. Shake the tin so that the crumbs cover the bottom and sides, then tip the excess out.
- Heat the oven to 160°C.
- While the oven is heating, mix the flour sugar and salt together.
- Dissolve the baking powder in the milk, then mix it into the dry ingredients.
- Mix in the egg.
- Peel and chop up the apples into small chunks. My mother-in-law cut them into eighths and then sliced each eighth into chunks. You can cut them however you like!
- Mix the apples in with the dough until all the apples are coated.
- Tip the mixture into the cake tin, then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top.
- Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Leave in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes to cool before turning out.