This recipe was given to us by our next door neighbour at the campsite on a recent visit to say ‘Ciao!’ … I say given to us, she quickly explained the ingredients and method off the top of her head as she darted between making coffees and heading outside to shoo her chickens off the terrace, and we hurriedly jotted down everything, hoping it would make sense when we got back home. She is always busy with something and only ever seems to sit down for ten minutes when we call in to see them! She is either looking after her animals – two dogs, a cat, a duck, a pony, two goats, a huge sheep, various chickens … and her husband, or climbing up the surrounding hills for mushrooms, wild asparagus or pinecones or tending her ‘orto’ (which she is already harvesting potatoes, cucumbers and zucchini from, and I’m not jealous … at all!)
She has a sweet tooth and she enjoys baking whenever she can – I think there has only been one occasion when we called in unexpectedly and she was absolutely mortified she didn’t have something sweet to offer us with our coffees. But one day she presented us with this huge ‘torta’ and it was delicious, hence our request for the recipe and the reason I’m sharing it with you all now (with her permission, of course). We’ve made it three times now and it’s our ‘go to’ recipe when we know we’ve got friends coming over …
4 apples (peeled – 3 cut into small cubes to add to the mixture, and 1 cut into thin slices to decorate the top)
½ small glass Marsala
100g amaretti biscuits (the hard ones not the soft ones)
½ small glass milk
300g Self Raising Flour (If doing this in Italy use standard flour and a sachet of ‘lievito pane degli angeli’)
3 or 4 tbsps apricot jam
Pre-heat the oven to around 180OC.
Put most of the amaretti biscuits into a small bowl (leaving 7 or 8 to one side for decoration) and pour the Marsala over the top of the ones in the bowl, put to one side.
Put the butter and sugar together in a large bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture. Add the milk and beat again.
Mash the, now softened, amaretti biscuits into the Marsala and add this to the mixture. Sieve the flour (and ‘lievito’ if using) into the mixture and fold together until all traces of the flour are gone. Add the 3 chopped apples and fold everything carefully to combine.
Into a well-buttered, large flat cake tin (I use my ‘le creuset’ frying pan which is 26cm across and will take a good inch in height of mixture plus room to rise a little) put around half of the mixture, smoothing it out to fill the base. Then stir the 3 or 4 tablespoons of apricot jam together to make them a little runnier, and dot them generously over the top of the mixture, lightly swirling them together to make a thin layer (the picture doesn’t look very appetising but please trust me!) Then add the rest of the mixture over the top and smooth carefully.
The sliced apples can now be fanned over the top (I usually do a ring around the edge and a small circle in the middle) and crumble the retained 7 or 8 amaretti biscuits over the top. Put into the oven and leave for a good 45 minutes until it is cooked – check with a sharp knife in the centre to make sure it comes out clean. Leave in the tin/pan to cool and then, before serving, sprinkle lightly with icing sugar (you’ll see from my photo that the icing sugar didn’t make an appearance as we were keen to taste it!)
This is delicious on its own as it is lovely and moist, but a vanilla or ‘panna’ ice cream is yummy too.
If you try this recipe – let me know how it turns out (and if you have any questions about the ingredients or the method then feel free to ask).
And her payment for this wonderful cake? Well I swapped it for a simple Yorkshire Tea Loaf recipe (thanks mum) that I know Bruna has made at least half a dozen times so far – apparently it satisfies her ‘sweet tooth’ perfectly!