Scented with vanilla and custardy in texture, this simple apple cake comes together in one bowl and emerges golden-crusted. It is one of the most delicious apple cakes I make and never fails to please adults and children alike.

The roots of Bolzano apple cake lie in the Alto Adige region of Italy, where Scott Carsberg of Seattle’s Lampreia trained as a young chef. There, Carsberg worked at the Michelin one-star restaurant, Villa Mozart, whose menu reflected the simple foods of the region, and whose chefs taught him how to make Bolzano apple cake, a classic northern Italian peasant dessert.

Over twenty years later, Carsberg put the cake on his menu, serving it with caramel ice cream. Yum (Read more about Carsberg, Lampreia, and the Bolzano apple cake in this New York Times article: Seattle Grown, Italian Flavored.)

I adore this cake, and I want you to, too. Some of you, however, have had trouble with this recipe, mostly with the baking time, which some of you have noted has taken as long as 90 minutes. I know every oven is different and every pan conducts heat differently, so baking times will surely vary, but I worry that cooking this “cake” for over an hour will severely alter its delicate texture and flavor.

Why? Because Bolzano apple cake is more like a cross between a clafouti and a pancake. After the cake is removed from the oven, it falls, and the slices of vanilla-seed speckled apples meld together sinking into the tiniest of tiny layers of custardy cake. It is delectable.

If you fear your oven’s temperature and dial aren’t quite calibrated accurately — mine certainly are not — I recommend getting one of these little oven thermometers. Mine hangs from my top oven rack, and I refer to it every time I use my oven.

When testing the doneness of this cake, inserting a knife will offer little guidance. The paring knife I used emerged covered with little bits of batter. I still removed the cake from the oven after 55 minutes of cooking and let it cool in its pan on a rack for more than 30 minutes before tucking in.

I most enjoy eating this cake when it has cooled to room temperature. I’d wager, in fact, that it peaks at breakfast the next day. Good things come to those who wait? Or something like that.

farmers' market apples
apple slices
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Bolzano apple cake

Bolzano Apple Cake


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4.9 from 82 reviews

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Description

Source: Adapted from The New York Times 2004

I’ve adjusted the recipe only every so slightly in that I make this in one bowl, whisking the salt and baking powder directly into the batter, and adding the milk and flour successively as opposed to alternately. 


Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (4 ounces | 114 g), plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract)
  • 3 to 4 apples, such as Fuji or Honey Crisp (about pound or about 3 cups once peeled and sliced)
  • ½ cup (64 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (140 g) milk at room temperature
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease a nine-inch-circle pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place inside pan. Grease sides of pan and parchment round with butter.
  2. Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside. Beat together eggs and half of sugar in a bowl. Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick — it should form a ribbon when dropped from spoon.
  3. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the egg-sugar mixture and add pod to melted butter.
  4. Peel apples and cut straight down around the core into four big chunks. Discard the core then slice the apple pieces thinly.
  5. Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Whisk butter into the sugar-egg mixture. Add the salt and baking powder and whisk to combine. Whisk in the milk. Whisk in the flour.
  6. Add the apples, and use a spatula to incorporate them, coating every piece with batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away slightly from the pan and is brown on top. Cool for at least 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: Italian, American