Best Dessert Ever

Seriously, this may be my favorite dessert ever. After cookies and cream ice cream, that is. No really, I have taken this don’t-take-your-mother’s-advice thing way too far. She, I mean my mother — (Liza hates to be referred to as a pronoun) — has been telling me to make this cake for years, well at least since 2004, when the New York Times printed the recipe.

I baked this cake this morning, ate one quarter of it for lunch, and another quarter for dinner. I’m tempted to include a picture of the half-eaten cake in this post, but am too embarrassed. I don’t know what else to say. It’s moist, delicious, seasonal and can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. I mean it. Make it!

Balzano Apple Cake
Adapted from New York Times 2004
Serves 8

1 stick butter, plus more for greasing pan
parchment paper
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean 

4 Fuji apples
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel
½ cup milk at room temperature
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a nine-inch-circle pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place inside pan.

Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside. Beat together eggs and half of sugar in a bowl. Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick — it should form a ribbon when dropped from spoon.

Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the egg-sugar mixture and add pod to melted butter.

Peel apples and cut straight down around the core into four big chunks. Discard the core then slice the apple pieces thinly.

Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Stir butter into sugar-egg mixture. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, then stir into batter alternating with the milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top. (A thin-bladed knife inserted into the center will come out clean when it is done.) Cool 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.


  1. darcy says

    A friend and I made this last night and it is fantastic. The aroma from the vanilla bean is incredible and the final result tastes as great as it smells. Thanks for another fabulous recipe.

  2. reika says

    butter is not sold in stick form in my country, I wonder how many grams or ounce, is a stick of butter? is it unsalted butter?

  3. Anonymous says

    Hi Ali–I made the cake for Easter, and wonder why I don’t make it daily. I used 1 1/4 pounds of Fuji apples, i.e I peeled and cored four apples or so and then weighed them until I had 1 1/4 pounds. xo fatmama

  4. Natalie says

    Hi Ali-
    As I sat watching the Grey’s Anatomy premiere last night eating this, I thought you may be my new best friend. SO delicious! Only one thing-it took a lot longer to cook for me-almost an hour and a half! Any clues why that might have happened? Thanks!

  5. alexandra's kitchen says

    Hi Natalie,

    Gosh, I have no idea! You know, I made this with my aunt and grandmother last summer and we removed it from the oven after about an hour and it definitely needed to be cooked longer. Her oven, we discovered, was noticeably cooler than mine. Do you have one of those oven thermometers? you might just check it out. otherwise, I don’t know what to say. I’m glad you liked the cake and I’m sorry it took so long!

  6. rg says

    Hi Ali :) I made this today and it is incredibly delicious! I had the same problem as Natalie and I’m certain it’s the oven. My oven has temperature issues but no matter, because it was worth the wait!

  7. Sara says

    I just made this tonight, and it was absolutely delicious! The amount of sweetness is perfect, and I love the apples. Thanks for posting this! :)

  8. Lynn says

    The Balzano apple cake i made was beautiful, but had a slight eggy taste to it. Is this normal, or did i do something wrong?

  9. Lynn says

    I’m just wonder if my cake was also a bit raw, or if the texture is supposed to be more like a wet, spongy cake with an egg-like taste. I put it in the oven for 50 min., but the top came out browned exactly like yours.

    • says

      Hi Lynn, I don’t think you did anything wrong — Balzano apple cake doesn’t have the texture of a traditional cake. It’s more like a cross between a clafouti and a pancake — I think like what you are describing (a wet, spongy cake). It shouldn’t be too egg tasting, however. I don’t know what would have caused this – were the eggs you used particularly large? I’m sorry this happened. It’s never fun when a recipe doesn’t turn out as you expect. I revisited the recipe with this post, because a few other commenters had similar questions. I haven’t made Balzano apple cake in ages. I think I need to revisit it once again. I will report back if I make any discoveries next time I make it.

  10. Anne says

    Hi, I love your site and the recipes here are fabulous, I love going through them and I made quite a few.
    However for this one, I was wondering; is it possible to use a substitute for the vanilla bean, maybe some extract? (if so, how much?)
    I don’t have access to vanilla beans (i.e. they’re too expensive and I’m too lazy to go hunting for them hahaha)

    • says

      Anne, of course, definitely use vanilla extract if can’t get yourself some affordable vanilla beans. Your comment is very timely — my most recent post is about homemade vanilla extract using IndriVanilla beans, a source for affordable, Fair Trade vanilla beans. You seriously can order 19 premium-grade vanilla beans with shipping for a total of $13.50. Check them out:

    • says

      Hi Jay, I have to admit I am not accustomed to making those sorts of substitutions, but so many people have commented on various other posts that they’ve had success using almond or soy milk, so I think it’s worth a shot. Good luck!

      • Jay Koes says

        thanks! i’ve just baked your pumpkin loaf for the second time this week and it’s divine! will let you know how the non-dairy version of the cake works out.

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