2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
80g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus an extra 20g and a little for greasing
200g (1⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
150ml milk
125ml dry white wine
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sea salt
4 small-medium apples (pink lady, fuji or jonathan), about 600g
2 tablespoons cherry jam
1 tablespoon brandy
30g (¼ cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
40g amaretti biscuits (12–14 biscuits, depending on their size)
icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting (optional)

The recipe for this cake is from nonna Nita’s handwritten recipe book. I was lucky enough to see Nita’s heirloom recipe diary when I spent an afternoon with Signora Jolanda, the widow of Bibo (a close friend of my father’s from Pola/Pula), and her daughter Samantha. Anita, or Nita for short, was Samantha’s paternal grandmother, a regal-looking woman with a heart of gold and a love of cooking. This is the cake we shared that afternoon, a deliciously moist apple cake – one of ten in Nita’s precious recipe book.

View the recipe collection here


1.Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) fan-forced.
2.Grease the base and sides of a round 21cm springform cake tin, then line with baking paper.
3.Place the egg yolks, sugar and the 30g of melted butter in a large bowl.
4.Add the flour, baking powder, milk, wine, lemon zest, vanilla and a pinch of salt.
5.Beat lightly with a whisk to remove any lumps and combine; the mixture will be quite liquid.
6.Leave to rest for 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
7.Peel and core the apples.
8.Cut the apples into quarters, and each quarter into segments about 6mm thick.
9.In a small bowl, mix the jam and brandy until combined.
10.Pour half the batter into the cake tin.
11.Top with half the apple slices, then dot with half the extra butter.
12.Scatter over the sultanas and the amaretti, crushing them by hand as you go.
13.Add the remaining apple, dot with the remaining butter and drizzle with the jam mixture.
14.Pour on the second layer of cake batter, which will partially sink between the apple slices.
15.Bake for about 1¼ hours, or until the cake is golden and firm to touch.
16.Check the cake periodically and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C (300°F) if it is browning too quickly.
17.Wait until the cake cools before removing it from the tin.
18.Serve dusted with icing sugar, if desired.
19.The cake will keep in a sealed container in a cool spot for up to 3 days.

This is an edited
extract from Istria
by Paola Bacchia,
published by Smith
St Books, $65.
Photographs by
Paola Bacchia.