This vegan apple cake is inspired by Italian torta di mele. It’s so simple and elegant! Pair with espresso for an easy autumn dessert.
Like many people, I associate autumn and the holiday season with apple pie. Yet cake is my one true dessert.
But I’ve never made a simple apple cake, and it’s time for that to change.
This vegan apple cake is inspired by torta di mele, a classic Italian treat. It’s simple, elegant, easy to prepare, and very tasty. It has become one of my favorite fall and winter desserts, and it’s my hope that you’ll fall in love with it, too.
Torta di mele is a traditional, Italian apple cake. I’ve read that it is to Italian kitchens what apple pie is to American ones.
Torta di mele is decorated with apple slices. The apples are pushed into the batter from the top down, which creates a lovely pattern.
When I was reading up on torta di mele, I learned that the cake itself is usually very simple, with lemon zest as the main flavor note. I tried to honor that simplicity here.
I made the vegan apple cake with the same simple, vanilla cake batter that I’ve used in many other cake recipes. Different variations of the batter have turned into vanilla birthday cake, strawberry shortcake, and Nantucket cranberry pie.
In this version, the lemon is a little more pronounced, which is in keeping with most of the torta di mele recipes that I’ve seen.
I love holiday baking, but it tends to come at a time of year when many home cooks are busier than usual. As a result, it’s a great bonus that this cake is simple to make.
You’ll start by whisking together all-purpose flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. That’s it for dry ingredients—it’s truly a minimalist recipe.
Next, you’ll stir together non-dairy milk and the juice of a lemon. This is a quick, vegan version of buttermilk.
To the vegan buttermilk, you’ll add olive oil (the fat source in this cake recipe), sugar, and vanilla.
Next, you’ll add wet ingredients to dry in order to make the cake batter. At this point, it’s time to also fold in fresh lemon zest.
At this point, you’ll transfer your cake batter to round cake pan. To decorate, you’ll arrange thin, half moon shaped apple slices in the top of the vegan apple cake.
Don’t worry about making the slices overly neat or pretty or perfectly circular. I’ve put this cake into the oven many times, thinking it was messy looking, and it emerged from the oven looking just great. Anyway, the vegan apple cake is meant to be a little rustic. It’s a homey, every day dessert.
One of the nice things about the vegan apple cake is that you can dress it up or down, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
The cake can be made into something more festive and decorated with a thin dusting of powdered sugar. You can serve it with my favorite tofu whipped cream, and it’s also excellent with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream. For something that’s more sweet, you could drizzle some salted date caramel sauce on top.
It’s also fine to cut slices of the cake exactly as it is. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a warm afternoon beverage or get together with friends.
The vegan apple cake should be covered and stored at room temperature for up to two days. After that, you can transfer it to the fridge for another two or three days.
If you need to store the cake for more than 4-5 days, then I definitely recommend freezing. You can wrap and freeze the whole cake (a great make-ahead dessert option for holiday parties or get togethers), or individual slices for up to 6 weeks.
There are plenty of enticing, decadent desserts to savor in life. But simple cakes will always be my favorite. Here are some of the ones I love most:
I’m savoring slices of this simple autumn cake with the Italian roast coffee that friends gave to me this past summer. It’s a new favorite, exactly the kind of treat I love, and I hope some of you will love it, too.
This recipe is also my tribute to La Cucina Italiana, a digital and print publication that celebrates Italian cuisine and a love of Italian culture.