April 3, 2011

Philomena's Apple Cake

Philomena tells me she fell in love with this cake when she first tasted it back in the early 1970's. It was made by a Hungarian lady who lived in the former Yugoslavia, however Philomena is not sure of the cake's true origin. My hubby and I adore this cake and I couldn't let Philomena return to Pula, (if her house sells), without giving me a demonstration of it in her very own kitchen. She did. And now I can keep her recipe alive and pass it onto others who will no doubt adore it too. Philomena has no children and she is thrilled to hear me posting her recipes.  She said she feels like a part of her is being kept alive through my personal recordings and blog posts.  It's the least I can do.  Thanks Philomena.  Yet again.

Philomena's Apple Cake

Sponge Ingredients

6 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons castor sugar
6 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Filling Ingredients

1 kg peeled green apples
8 tablespoons sugar
120gm custard powder or 100gm if prefer a softer, not so dry filling
vanillin sugar or vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients

600ml thickened cream
4 tablespoons very fine granulated sugar or icing sugar
Grated chocolate


Make the apple filling. Chunkily slice up the apple to make up one kilo. Place in your pot; add sugar and 1/2 a litre of water. Cover the pot with a lid; cook apple till softened but not falling apart.  We don't want pureed apple but it must be well cooked just holding it's shape. It is best to remove the lid a couple of minutes before taking off the heat.

Once the apple has reached a soft, mildly mushy consistency, pour into colander; drain well; reserve liquid.  Return this liquid to the pot. Combine the custard powder with about 2/3 cup of water; mix well to ensure there are no lumps. Add about a teaspoon of vanillin sugar or vanilla extract. Mix well. Heat the reserved apple liquid in the pot and when it reaches a boil, remove from heat.   Whisk in the custard mixture; return to the heat. It's critical to continue whisking the whole time till the custard thickens.   You will find the custard begins to turn into an orangy colour, and is very thick and requires vigorous mixing.  Continue to mix and cook through till the mixture is very firm. 

Place the cooked apple into the pot and continue to mix and combine all the ingredients, breaking up the apple as you mix.  Remember, we don't want a puree but we do want a pulpy, broken down apple with a few bits of apple for added texture. Continue this process in a gentle manner for about five minutes.  Remove from heat; set aside to cool.  

Philomena's Way - To make the cake; whisk together the sugar and the egg yolks with an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 to 7 minutes, till the mixture is thick and yellow.  In another bowl, mix the egg whites till just firm peaks.  Add the sifted cocoa powder, baking powder and plain flour into the beaten egg yolk and sugar.  Philomena used a whisk to combine these ingredients. 

When all the ingredients have been incorporated, (not easy with a firm mixture); gently as possible add this to the beaten egg whites and whisk.  Once again do this with a light hand so you don't knock out too much of the air. 


My Way - To make the cake; whisk together the sugar and whole eggs and vanilla extract till thick and ribbony.  This will take about ten or twelve minutes.  Using the whisk from the electric mixer, carefully mix through the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. 

Pour into a rectangular high-sided tin greased and lined with baking paper.   Philomena's old fashioned method of greasing the tin is to generously spread pork fat all over, heavily sprinkle with flour; shake the tin vigorously and upturn to rid the excess flour.  You choose which ever method suits you to grease your tin.  Bake the cake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees celcius for about twenty minutes or till done when cake is springy in the middle.  Remove when baked; upturn onto a cake rake; allow to cool.

Beat the cream and icing sugar till nice and thick but do not overbeat till buttery looking. 

To assemble cake; place the sponge onto a long tray.  Carefully and evenly spread the cooled apple all over the sponge. Make sure you reach all the corners and that the spreading is as level as possible.

Over this, spread the beaten cream and sugar mixture as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.  It's better if left to sit overnight in the fridge.  Serve into cut up squares.  It's a fantastic crowd pleaser dessert.  I particularly love the fact that it isn't loaded with butter or too much fat, so it makes for a perfect ending without feeling heavy or stodgey.  It is so different but somehow the ingredients all come together in a way that truly works.  I will always be reminded of "Mina" when I make this cake and that in itself is enough motivation for me to keep the tradition going.

  • I did a couple of things differently.  Firstly I had left over apples from my trip to Armidale a few weeks ago.  They aren't granny smiths, but I used them anyway.  That's why the apple looks rather yellow as opposed to greenish.   I also had about 1.3kg of apple.  I upped the sugar by one tablespoon but left everything else the same.  The cake was forgiving and it all came together beautifully.
  • I also overlooked adding the amount of sugar to the cream that Philomena recommended.  Instead I added about two teaspoons.  It was totally fine.  I'd probably do the same thing next time.


  1. Tell me that's not the cake you were having trouble taking photos of... It looks fabulous! I would never have thought of doing a cake like that. Thanks Philomena and Mariana.

  2. Yep. Thats the one. Looking at your beautiful custard biscuit shots actually gave me a few ideas. So Thanks cityhippyfarmgirl.
    I know, it's unusual this cake. But gosh, it tastes good. One day, later and it's almost gone. And it's a big cake!!!!!

  3. This cakes tastes fantastic.........from someone who has had it on many occasions!!

    Philomena must absolute love you doing this and it is such a lovely thing for you to do it.

  4. Oh thank you dear Gayle. Im so pleased you dropped in to this particular post. You are the perfect person to verify the delicious, delectable desserts of our Philomena. Well, what can I say Gayle. She certainly has done a lot for your family and for mine too. Bottom line - I enjoy writing about her and the recipes are definitely a bonus. Mariana xxxx