I began with a 'mille mele' cake in mind – more a dessert than cake in my eyes, made by layering many thin slices of apple with scatterings of sugar in between each layer until it exceeds the height of the tin. I was after something that utilised the apples rolling around on the bench and was gluten free. After weighing out my apples, it became clear that I would certainly not have enough (around 3kg) to make this wonderfully delicate cake which translates to 'thousands of apples'. So instead I searched in my cupboard for the most agreeable gluten free flour. Buckwheat goes wonderfully with apples so I settled on it, and began conjure up a cake with elements of my original 'mille mele' plan.
This cake is has a rounded nuttiness and a wonderful texture, thanks to the ricotta. The centre of layered apples and sugar is all topped off with a little butter to help the apples caramelise. We ate this cake for dessert with quite a generous pour of cream, but I do believe it would be lovely for breakfast and afternoon tea too. If you're not gluten-intolerant or don't have any buckwheat flour at hand, you can substitute the buckwheat flour for plain all-purpose flour.
120g unsalted butter, softened
120g raw sugar
250g full-fat fresh ricotta
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Zest of one lemon
80g ground almonds
120g buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
60g raw sugar plus extra for scattering
1tbsp unsalted butter
Pure cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between to combine. Mix in the ricotta until smooth, then add the seeds from the vanilla bean, ground cinnamon, lemon zest and ground almonds and combine. Gently stir in the buckwheat flour and baking powder until all incorporated. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and set aside whilst you prepare the apples.
Slice the apples very thinly, preferably with a mandolin. You can core the apples, but I just slice them until I reach the core, then turn the apple and slice again until all sides have been used and just the core is left. Now arrange one layer of apples on top of the cake in a circular formation, leaving a 4 cm border. Scatter the apples with around 1tbsp of the sugar and then cover again with a layer of apples. Repeat these apple and sugar layers until all of the apples and sugar have been used, using extra sugar if needed. You should have around 6 layers of apples. Press the apples gently into the batter and then dot with the butter and scatter with around 1tbsp of extra sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven for around 1 hour, or until the cake is puffed and coming away from the tin and the apples are golden. You can insert a skewer to check, however, the apples may be in the way a little so you may need to look for those other signs of doneness. If the apples are browning too quickly, turn down the temperature to 160C and check frequently.
Serve with plenty of cream.