This rustic Italian apple cake is a traditional treat all Italian nonnas make! Loaded with apples, deliciously soft and made with olive oil instead of butter.

I’m so excited to share with you one of my favourite childhood treats, a super classic rustic Italian apple cake!

I’m pretty confident there’s some sort of apple cake (or pie!) in all our childhood memories.

I grew up with my mum’s Italian apple cake (and classic tiramisu), and whenever I smell it around, it winds back the clock to my sweetest childhood memories.

My mum, who’s from Sicily and recently became nonna, loves making this cake, but she never measures the ingredients and just does things by eye.

Needless to say, I had a pretty hard time remaking it perfectly at home in England until recently.

I finally asked her to grab a pen and write down all the ingredients whilst making the millionth apple cake of her life, and *BAAM*, I can finally make my childhood favourite cake wherever I am.

Rustic Italian Apple Cake Ingredients

Although every nonna in Italy has her own super-secret ingredient or method for making it, but the basic recipe calls for just 8 basic everyday ingredients:

  • apples
  • eggs
  • flour
  • sugar
  • butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • vanilla
  • lemon zest
  • baking powder

Most apple cake recipes call for butter, but this dairy-free apple cake is made with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter.

Like my mum’s apple cake, I like to load mine with delicious, crisp and slightly tart apples with a firm texture, but sweeter varieties would work well too.

Italian apple cake on wood board next to apples, cinnamon sticks and a small plate with a slice of cake

Here are a few suggestions on my favourite ingredients to use when making this classic Italian dessert:


I like to make my apple cake with a light extra-virgin-olive oil ( lightly fruity evoo works well too) instead of butter.

But if you don’t like the flavour of olive oil (although is extremely mild here) you can add the same amount of butter in lieu of olive oil.


You can use your favourite apples when making this apple pie, I prefer apples that keep a crispy texture even after they are baked and are overall not too sweet.

I usually go for Honeycrisp apples, with a sweet slightly tart refreshing flavour or Cox apples, juicy with a mild spicy flavour.


I like to use a mix of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

I first measure it then sift through a fine strainer. However, you can also opt for the traditional version and use only all-purpose flour.

I have not tried it yet with gluten-free flour, so if you give it a go, please share your experience in the comments.


I use organic fine demerara sugar, for a sweet-not-too sweet, slightly nutty flavour, but the classic version of apple cake is made with regular white sugar (you can also substitute with fine light brown sugar).

Extra Flavors For Your Apple Cake:

Nuts: for an extra nutty flavour, fold into your batter 1/4 cup ( 60 g) of toasted pine nuts or almond flakes, hazelnuts and pistachio work well too.
Cinnamon: although Italian apple cake doesn’t traditionally call for cinnamon, if you’re a big fan of the apple + cinnamon combo, add 1 tsp of cinnamon powder into your batter.

How to make Italian Apple Cake

This rustic dairy-free cake is super easy to make, and only requires a mere 10 minutes preparation and about 30-40 minutes in the oven.

This recipe is absolutely fool-proof, and I mean it, it’s hard to fail with this cake even if you are a novice baker.

Italian apple cake on wood board next to apples, cinnamon sticks and a small plate with a slice of cake

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients in another bowl, then slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the wet one.

Add this point you fold in the apples, add any extra ingredient ( scroll down for a few ideas).

The batter is just enough to embrace all the little apple chunks.

Fold your apple cake mixture into a prepared pan and pop it in a hot oven. After 10 minutes your kitchen will smell absolutely delicious!

Bake the cake for approximately 30-40 minutes. To check if the cake is done insert a toothpick into the middle, if it comes out clean, then the cake is ready.

Allow the cake to rest until is completely cool, then sprinkle with confectioner sugar (not absolutely necessary), and serve yourself a big slice of fluffy, moist, delicious Italian apple cake.

More Delicious Apple Recipes To Try:

Print Recipe
4.47 from 13 votes

Rustic Italian Apple Cake {dairy-free with olive oil}

This rustic Italian apple cake is a traditional treat all Italian nonnas make! Totally fool-proof, loaded with apples, deliciously fluffy and dairy-free.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Allergy-friendly
Keyword: apple cake, apple dessert, dairy-free, italian cake
Author: The Petite Cook


  • 200 gr organic all-purpose flour sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 120 gr white sugar (or fine demerara sugar) (1 cup)
  • 120 ml light extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or half vanilla pod, scraped)
  • 800 gr Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes (about 4-5 apples)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

To decorate:

  • 1 tbsp confectioner sugar


  • Preheat oven to 180C/360F and adjust a baking rack onto the middle shelf. Grease and dust with flour (or line with parchment paper) a large 9x9 inch baking pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, place the flour, baking powder and sea salt. Mix until well combined and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, place the eggs and the sugar. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until light and pale, then gently whisk in the olive oil, followed by the vanilla, and mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  • Slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the wet mixture, mixing with a spatula until just combined ( make sure to not over mix).
  • Fold in the chopped apples and lemon zest, and mix until just combined.
  • Pour the apple cake batter into the prepared baking pan and bake in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes. To check if the cake is ready, insert a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool and gently remove the apple cake from the pan.
  • Dust the cake all over with confectioner sugar and serve at room temperature. 


Flour: For a more rustic apple cake, use 100gr (3.5 ounces) all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour
Butter: If you wish to use butter, replace the extra-virgin olive oil with 120 gr (4 oz) melted and cooled butter.
How to store this Italian Apple Cake: Store your cake in an airtight container in a cool spot, for up to 3 days.  You can cut into slices and freeze individually in freezer bags up to 3 months. a
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