Balzano Apple Cake, Revisited | (Bolzano Apple Cake)

Balzano Apple Cake

I have blogged about this cake before. It is one of my favorites, and I want it to be one of yours, too.

The roots of Balzano apple cake lie in the Alto Adige region of Italy, where Scott Carsberg of Seattle’s Lampreia trained as a young chef. There, Carsberg worked at the Michelin one-star restaurant, Villa Mozart, whose menu reflected the simple foods of the region, and whose chefs taught him how to make Balzano apple cake, a classic northern Italian peasant dessert. Over twenty years later, Carsberg put the cake on his menu, serving it with caramel ice cream. Yum.

(Read more about Carsberg, Lampreia and the Balzano apple cake in this New York Times article: Seattle Grown, Italian Flavored.)

I adore this cake, but classifying it as a cake, I am discovering, is perhaps misleading. The word cake is why several of you, I suspect, have had trouble with this recipe, mostly with the baking time — some of you have had to wait 90 minutes for your cakes to finish cooking.

I know every oven is different and every pan conducts heat differently, so baking times will surely vary, but I worry that cooking this “cake” for over an hour will severely alter its delicate texture and flavor.

You see, Balzano apple cake is more like a cross between a clafouti and a pancake — and the most delicious clafouti-pancake cross you’ve ever tasted at that. After the cake is removed from the oven, it falls, and the slices of vanilla-seed speckled apples meld together sinking into the tiniest of tiny layers of cake. It is delectable.

If you fear your oven’s temperature and dial aren’t quite calibrated accurately — mine certainly are not — I recommend getting one of these little oven thermometers. Mine hangs from my top oven rack, and I refer to it every time I use my oven.

When testing the doneness of this cake, inserting a knife will offer little guidance. The paring knife I used emerged covered with little bits of batter. I still removed the cake from the oven after 55 minutes of cooking and let it cool in its pan on a rack for more than 30 minutes before tucking in.

It has been over a year since I made Balzano apple cake, and I have forgotten how much I love it. I most enjoy eating it when it has cooled to room temperature. I’d wager, in fact, that it peaks at breakfast the day after it has baked. Yum yum yum.

Smit Orchards’ apples, found at the San Clemente farmers’ market:
farmers' market apples

Apple slices:
apple slices

Balzano Apple Cake

Source: Adapted from The 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 (or 1/2 tsp. kosher salt)
½ cup milk at room temperature
powdered sugar

1. 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. Grease sides of pan and parchment round with butter.

2. 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.

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

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

5. 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.

6. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, but not for much longer, or until cake pulls away slightly from the pan and is brown on top. Cool for at least 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.


  1. i made this cake last nite and it is absolutely delicious. it was so easy to make and was so good that i had it for breakfast this morning. would definitely make this cake again!

  2. This was the first of your recipes that I tried and every time I make it, it is with pure delight just knowing the delicious result that’s coming. You made me VERY happy with this.

  3. I’m wondering if there could be a summer version of this…could apples be replaced with something like peaches or would they not be substantial/fibrous enough to hold up?

    • I have always wondered the same thing but haven’t experimented. I love the idea of using peaches. I think they would work just fine though I bet the texture of the finished cake will be a little different…I know that’ll vague. If I get to making this with peaches before summer ends, I will be in touch! Report back if you make any discoveries.

  4. I recently discovered this cake via stumbleupon and had to make two of them this morning! Oh. My. gods. Truly divine. Thank you thank you thank you!
    I might have to make another for thanksgiving :)
    (Oh, I subbed out the flour for a 50/50 rice and tapicoa flour blend to make it gluten free and it worked like a charm because there is so little flour in here anyways!)

  5. Hello!

    First, I want to tell you huge thank you for what you are doing! You have rescued so many dinner parties at our home! I am learning so many new things reading your blog! Thank you thank you thank you!
    Second, about this apple cake. I tried to make it today and everything was wonderful until I realised that I forgot to add milk. I freaked out, of course :) Cake was ready in 45 minutes and was not so moist as yours, but it is still very very delicious. Now it is my favorite. Even my mother in law loved it. Next time I will make it with milk and compare the results!
    And again- Thank you so so much! You are wonderful!

    • Oh Kristine, you are so welcome! THank you for saying such kind things. I am so sorry to hear about the milk — is there anything worse?! — and I totally understand having a freak out, but I am glad to hear that all was not lost, and that the cake turned out well despite the missing ingredient. Glad to know it’s on the forgiving side. I will love, of course, to hear how it turns out for you with the milk. Thanks so much for writing in!

      • Hello again!

        I made this cake yesterday with every ingredient and it turned out wonderful, of course. It was much more moist and actually I can’t tell which one I prefer. First attempt was more like a cake, second- more like a clafouti. Both disappeared in a couple of hours :) Thank you again!

  6. Thank you so much for this recipe….everyone loved it, and it will be a regular for Christmas. In fact, they loved it so much last year, I need to make two this year. Can this recipe be doubled?

    • Hi! I tried to email you a response via my phone because I was away from my computer, but it didn’t go through. Sorry I’m just getting to this! I have never doubled the recipe but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I think you will just have to do your best dividing the batter equally between the two pans but otherwise I don’t see any issue. So happy you and your family likes this one as much as I do! Merry Christmas!

  7. Hello again!

    So, I made this with saturn peaches! The result wasn’t as good as the apple cake, but tasty!
    I used a little bit more flour and less sugar. I should’ve used a little bit of lemon juice.
    Peaches sank to the bottom and the cake was a little too wet on the bottom and a bit dry on top, but otherwise it was good and my family loved it!

    Hope this helps!

    • Thanks so much for sharing Kristine! Bummer it didn’t turn out as well with peaches, but it sounds like it was a worthy experiment anyway. So appreciate you reporting back!

      • Well, I guess it turned out that way because peaches were very juicy. Or maybe because it was 85F outside :) will definitely try this some other time again and will report!

        Thank you!


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