This one is courtesy of my friend Marta Carrozza of Il Marchese del Grillo B&B in Sulmona. Over the last few years I’ve asked her for I don’t know how many recipes, and she is always gracious about sharing them.
I’ve written about Marta before, when I posted her recipe for torta ubriaca (chocolate cake with red wine) last year. Every morning, weather permitting, Marta sets out a beautiful breakfast buffet on the rooftop terrace of her B&B. Our Abruzzo culinary tour guests loved it. There is always fresh seasonal fruit and a selection of freshly baked cookies and cakes made by her mother and mother-in-law.
Sweets aren’t my usual breakfast fare, but during our tour last month I enjoyed this apple cake two mornings in a row ~ it’s that good. The recipe comes from Marta’s mother, Olga. It’s a simple cake, not unlike the apple cake recipe I posted last year. Except it has a secret ingredient: sambuca.
Chopped apples get a nice soak in a sambuca bath before being folded into the batter. The result, once the alcohol bakes off, is a fragrant, tender cake with a distinct (but not too pronounced) anise kick. Be sure to use a mix of apples to give the cake a more complex flavor. I used Crimson Crisp, Honeycrisp, Grimes Golden, and Golden Delicious from my favorite apple purveyor, Twin Springs Fruit Farm.
Something else I love about this cake: it seems to improve with age. The crumb stays moist and the anise flavor mellows. I had one one slice left this morning from a cake I baked four days ago. It was just as good, if not better, than when it was fresh. Call it breakfast.
My thanks to Marta for sharing another stellar recipe.
A splash of sambuca gives this rustic apple cake a subtle, appealing anise flavor. A dusting of confectioners' sugar is all it needs as a garnish.
- 4 apples
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup sambuca
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup sunflower oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if using baking powder)
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 packet lievito per dolci (see NOTE) or 2 teaspoons baking powder
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with sunflower oil. Fit a piece of parchment into the bottom of the pan and lightly oil the parchment.
Peel the apples and cut them into bite-size pieces. Put them in a bowl with the sambuca as you go to prevent browning. Toss gently to make sure the apples are thoroughly coated and let sit while you mix the other ingredients.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until light (I use a whisk). Whisk in the lemon zest, oil, and vanilla extract, if using. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and lievito or baking powder. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold in the apples and sambuca. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until the top is golden-brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes. If the top is browned before the cake is done, gently lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top and finish baking. When done, transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a sharp knife or metal spatula to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Remove the ring from the pan and let the cake cool to room temperature.
Invert the cake onto a plate, remove the springform bottom and peel off the parchment. Re-invert the cake onto a serving platter. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.
NOTE Lievito Paneangeli is an Italian leavening agent flavored with vanilla that is used for making cakes and other sweets. You can substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder per packet of lievito. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the wet ingredients if you want to add vanilla flavor to the cake.