I found some treasures when I moved into a house in the late 1990s, in the back of some tall cupboards, completely out of sight. One of them was a heavy, lead crystal cake stand. I didn’t make cakes back then so used the cake stand as a holder for gorgeous coloured stones and crystals (I was a bit of a hippie back then!). When I moved house, it got packed away and stayed there until last weekend. I was having guests over and wanted to make something that was simple but looked fantastic on my crystal cake stand. Of course I thought of Tessa Kiros, and the beautifully photographed desserts in her cookbooks.
I have three of Tessa’s cookbooks but my favorite is the most recent one, “Limoncello and linen water”. I love its soft pink velvet bookmark, inspirational photos of food and fragments of stories usually about an Italian friend living in Italy (often in Venezia) and a dish they make. I made baci di dama biscotti some time back and could not wait to try other recipes in the book. It has taken me quite a while to get back to it, but last weekend I finally made her amazing apple cake. The photography in Tessa’s books inspires me to make a special effort with food presentation so placing the apple cake on the long forgotten crystal cake stand seemed like the perfect match.
I did find Tessa’s recipe (called Leontine’s apple cake in her book) to be too sweet. So I reduced the amount of sugar and added lemon zest and a bit of cinnamon powder to the crust. I used green Granny Smith apples rather than Golden Delicious as suggested in the book. The result was slightly more tart than the version in the cookbook, but that suits my tastes perfectly. We enjoyed the cake with some cinnamon whipped cream and a glass of Tasmanian Botrytis Riesling. A perfect end to a wonderful dinner party with friends.
Italian apple cake
125g butter, softened
220g raw sugar
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 lemon, zest only
750g Granny Smith apples (about 750g), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm cubes
Icing sugar for dusting the cake
Greek yoghurt or cinnamon whipped cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Butter and dust a 24cm diameter spring form cake tin. Set aside. Beat the butter and raw sugar with electric beaters until light and creamy. Drop in the egg and continue to beat until thick. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture half at a time. You may find that the mixture gets to hard to mix with the electric mixer so continue by hand until well combined.
Place 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared cake tin, making sure the base is evenly covered and it comes 2/3 up the side of the cake tin. Flattened it out with your fingers so it is even thickness on the base and the sides. Set aside. Now prepare the apples and place them evenly on the base of the cake. Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the pastry over the apples evenly.
Bake for 60 minutes or so until the pastry is golden and firm. Cool on a wire cake rack then remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar. Serve with some Greek yoghurt or cinnamon whipped cream (cream, a teaspoon of icing sugar and a good sprinkling of cinnamon all whipped up).