Combine a spring afternoon in the Valdarno, an art Nouveau-style villa, a Tuscan vegetable garden, a British cake designer and two talented event planners. The result: a charming afternoon tea and some British cakes made with Tuscan ingredients.
Lily Vanilli is a London based cake designer, described as one of the most sought after artisan bakers of her generation. Her clients include Elton John and Alexander McQueen. She visited Tuscany this Spring and made some delicious (and beautiful) cakes for the amazing British-style afternoon tea organized by Olivia and Angela (Italian I event planners) in Villa Masini.
“I made this cakes using blossom & rosemary (herb & flowers) picked from the beautiful gardens. All the ingredients I used were incredibly fresh including the big yellow eggs laid by the hens kept by the wonderful Simona, owner of the Canto del Maggio widespread hotel”, said Lily.
Here is her recipe for apple, pinenut and rosemary olive oil cake
- 190g plain white flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 85g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 85g dark brown sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 2 eggs
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 240 g peeled and cored cooking apples, very very finely diced plus one
- extra apple finely sliced to top the cakes
- a handful of pinenuts
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped & some bunches of
- rosemary flowers if you have them
- some apple blossom if you're lucky
- 12 individual cake or muffin tins, buttered or greased with olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan assisted/gas mark 6.
Whisk together the flour and baking powder to ensure they are evenly mixed. Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy with the chopped rosemary added – approximately 4 minutes. Now beat in the eggs, then add the oil and beat to incorporate. Mix in the diced apple and then fold in the dry ingredients.
Transfer into the prepared cake tins, level the edges and lay the slices of apple on top. Coat the surface of the cake with a thin layer of brown sugar & a scattering of the pinenuts.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until firm in the centre and a cocktail stick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely, or serve warm.
Optional dècor: brush a little egg white onto the rosemary flowers & sprinkle with white sugar, leave to set firm & then place on top of the cakes, add an apple blossom if you have one.