Even though I stopped on the way up to Todi, at a truck stop, and bought not one but two pastieras, along with a kilo of biscotti; and even though I loaded up on WAY too many chocolate eggs the other day in Rome at Valzani; today I found myself baking a cake. Which I needed like a hole in my head.

But somehow I can always justify baking. First of all Emma suggested it, so it was something fun to do together. Secondly, I had bought some very pretty apples at the market in Ponte Rio that turned out to be prettier than they were tasty. Kind of mealy and not so great for eating. Better for baking, right? Plus, Sophie was on her way up, and apple cake is one of the few deserts she loves.

So everything was pointing towards baking a apple cake.

And when it comes to apple cake I always turn to my trusted Marcella. Years ago, while living in Florence and just learning how to cook in an Italian kitchen Marcella was my mentor. And the recipe for A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart became a favorite. But for whatever reason I never make it with pears. Probably because I usually have apples in the house and this is almost always a cake I make at the last minute. I’ve even made it with bananas. I usually add a bit of cinnamon as well, and sometimes ginger and nutmeg. It’s a hard cake not to love, and an even easier one to bake.

A Farm Wife’s Fresh Apple Tart
(adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
1.5 cups flour
2 pounds apples
a 9 inch round cake pan
Butter for greasing the pan and dotting the cake
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 375F/180C

Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add sugar, pinch of salt and beat. Add flour, mixing it well.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Add to batter, mixing gently but well. It will seem like it is mostly apples, which it is. That’s ok.

Smear a pan with butter then sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, shaking and them pouring out excess.

Put batter into pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon. Dot with bits of butter, pushing them into the batter with your finger. About 3 Tablespoons total.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.