Yes, once again I am baking from Gina De Palma’s book Dolce Italiano. This may be the first cookbook that I actually work my way through-cover to cover. To be perfectly honest, I have a real sweet tooth and usually go for lots of chocolate and I never complain that a dessert is too sweet. The Italians, on the other hand, normally serve baked goods that are not overly sweet and the recipes in this book reflect this preference. And yet, I have loved everything that I have tried from Dolce Italiano. Maybe it’s because these recipes take me back to what I have eaten in cafes and pasticcerias in Italy. Their baked goods are full of flavor, but the sweetness is subtle.
Today I baked a cake that I’ve been thinking about making for a while. Called “Venetian Apple Cake” this is perfect for an afternoon snack or in the morning with coffee. It was a quick cake to make, as besides being easy to put together, it only bakes for about 40 minutes. I took a nibble while it was hot-a little bit stuck to the pan and I felt compelled to try it. It was good, but I have to admit that it was even better and the apple taste really came through once it had cooled.
Venetian Apple Cake
1-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant or fine polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large Granny smith or Golden Delicious apple
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Grease a 9″ round cake pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray, dust it with flour and knock out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside. Peel the apple and grate it, using the medium side of a box grater in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and olive oil and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the honey until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl, followed by the vailla extract.
On low speed, beat in half the dry ingredients, followed by all the milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds to emulsify the batter. Using a rubber spatula and fold in the grated apple.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert it onto the rack to cool completely.
When cool, dust with confectioners sugar. Cake may be wrapped in plastic and store for 2 days.