Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week 17: The Apple Cake of Many Names

I suppose it doesn’t look much like a slice of birthday cake. No layers; no frosting. But since my birthday fell on the eve of Rosh Hashanah this year, I went with something holiday appropriate. (And if eating sweet foods can ensure a sweet year, my family is surely covered.)

I’m not sure what to call this cake. Sometimes it’s known as a Jewish apple cake -- “Jewish,” presumably, because it’s dairy free and therefore a dessert suitable for meat-containing meals. Apparently it’s also a “Philadelphia-style apple cake,” as explained in this 2006 article from the Philadelphia City Paper. I grew up in Philly, but I had no idea that this kind of cake is something of a regional specialty. (I didn’t visit enough bake shops, I guess.) The cake might also be called a “German apple cake” or “Any Country in Eastern Europe apple cake”; it’s standard fare from that part of the globe.

Whatever you call this cake, the key thing is that it’s an oil-based cake -- moist, sweet, and on the dense side. Cut it into sixteenths and no one will feel slighted by the size of the piece.

The Apple Cake of Many Names
(From Relish magazine, with trivial changes)

6 cups peeled, sliced apples (About 3 apples. Granny Smith recommended, but use whatever is local and seasonal)
4 tsp cinnamon mixed with 5 Tbsp granulated sugar
1.5 cups additional granulated sugar
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
Extra oil, sugar, and flour for preparing pan

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan, then sugar and flour the pan.

Combine the sliced apples with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar. Add in the canola oil, orange juice, and vanilla, and beat well. Gradually stir in the flour mixture and blend well.

Pour one-third of the batter into the prepared pan, and top with half of the apple slices. Make a second layer of batter and fruit in the same manner, then top with the last third of batter, making sure the apples are covered.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the top turns golden and a knife inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Very nice served with a glass of hot tea at the end of a big meal.


  1. I used Joan Nathan's version of this recipe last fall to make this "Jewish Apple Cake" several times. Love, love, love it, but you definitely need a goodly amount of time set aside for all the apple slicing and baking.

  2. True enough, but I don't mind that as long as the results are worth the time.