We didn’t make it to an apple orchard this year. Oh, there were definitely invitations, and I do love fresh cider doughnuts. But the timing was never right, and I try and avoid apples because they do hurt my tummy.
This is not to say we didn’t have apples all season long. Just the opposite: A half dozen in the week’s CSA box, plus some generous houseguests bearing bags from their favorite orchard, meant that we definitely had plenty of fresh, local apples. So many in fact, that I became quite a fan of this recipe.
I’ve been on the fence about sharing the recipe. Not that I don’t love it, but it just takes a bit of time. Coring and slicing five apples very thinly takes a while, the eggs and orange juice have to be at room temperature, and the cake takes about an hour and a half to bake. So you really do need a little time set aside to make the cake, but it’s totally worth it. And even though it is practically December, there are still plenty of apples to go around.
I found this recipe in Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook, and I always get a laugh when I say the name of it: “Jewish” Apple Cake. When Joan Nathan labels something “Jewish,” you know it’s authentic. It’s probably because it’s parve; it uses oil, rather than butter or lard in the batter. Joan Nathan goes on to say that she found the recipe in two local Maryland cookbooks, and that the crumbly exterior and moist texture reminded her husband of all the Polish-Jewish cakes his mother and aunts made during his childhood.
For me, whenever I take a bite of this cake, I am transported to the end of a Friday night dinner or a nice kiddush at shul. Really. This is the cake that’s served at your aunt’s on Rosh Hashana, or the cake that your grandmother used to make. If your aunt/grandmother was Jewish, of course.
If you’re not familiar with Joan Nathan, I highly recommend checking out one of her guest posts in The New York Times. She’s their go-to Jewish cookbook author, a title that she definitely earned and deserves. She is not the only good name in Jewish cookbooks, but is definitely the most famous. And with good reason.
“Jewish” Apple Cake
5 large apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala or Jonathan) unpeeled
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups unsifted flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan (ie, a bundt pan) and dust with flour.
2. Core and cut the apples into thin slices. Place in a large bowl, toss with the lemon juice, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of the sugar.
3. Beat the eggs and gradually add the remaining sugar, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet mixture and mix thoroughly with a spoon.
5. Pour one third of the batter into the pan. Layer with one third of the apples. Repeat for 2 more layers, ending with apples on top.
6. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden on top. Let sit a few minutes and then run a knife gently around the sides of the mold. Cover with a plate and invert to remove from the pan.