According to my mother, going over to someone’s house empty-handed is a major infraction. One punishable by death! Or at the very least a smack on the tuchus and a lifetime of guilt.
So this has become my go-to, no skill, one bowl, crowd-pleasing apple cake. [For an equally delicious coffee cake recipe, check out my Great Aunt Ellie’s “Shiva Cake”] This apple cake is delicious, freezes well, and I haven’t found a single person who hasn’t snagged a second piece and asked for the recipe.
You can make it all year round, but it’s perfect for the Rosh Hashanah holiday when we eat lots of apples and honey, symbols of a sweet new year, and there’s also no butter in this apple cake recipe (ie: no dairy) so it can be served for dessert after a meat-meal if keeping kosher is important.
You can change the order of the apple layers so they bake on the top. You can also bake this in a round cake pan with a removable bottom.
I first enjoyed this cake on my inaugural trip to DC to visit Jonathan’s extended family. We had planned to spend a few days in Manhattan before we spent the weekend in our nation’s capital celebrating Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) with his mother, sister who traveled down from NY, and his wonderfully wacky aunts, uncles and cousins.
I’ll tell specific stories in future posts, but for now I’ll just say this:
Like any neurotic narcissist I was simultaneously nervous and excited for the initial meeting of the in-laws. I wanted them to like me and then again, hate me just a little. I was the outsider…I was the entertainment… and I love a big fat spotlight. Besides I’m a big hit with other peoples’ families!
So fast-forward to the end of the weekend. They loved me, can’t stop thinking about me, and want to have like a thousand of my babies. Jonathan’s aunt and I send each other inappropriate texts about the BRAVO Real Housewives series, our not so secret crushes on Andy Cohen, and what we think of our respective family members. Just kidding—but not really.
Oh, and back to the purpose of this post—Jonathan’s mom baked this apple cake. It was phenomenal. It was so good, she baked a second one, froze it, and we traveled back to San Francisco with it. Unfortunately it didn’t make it off the plane. Enjoy!
For the apples
- 5 apples (mixture, some tart, I like Fuji and Granny Smith) peeled and sliced
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
*this is my version of this recipe which has some brown sugar in the apple mixture. The original just uses regular sugar, which is fine, but I think the brown sugar adds a molases note that I love.
For the batter
- 3 cups unsifted flour
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup canola oil
- Pinch salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
Mix the apples with the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl and set aside.
In a standing mixer on medium low speed, mix all the batter ingredients until the batter is thick and practically lump-less. Then pour half the batter mixture on the bottom of a well-greased (stressing the grease people!) round pan (like an angel food cake pan with a removable bottom or bundt cake pan). Then cover the batter with about half the apple mixture. Then evenly pour the rest of the batter on top of the apples, and finish with the rest of the apples and any sugary juices in the bottom of the bowl.
Bake the cake in a 350° oven for 90 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean (can be hard if you pierce an apple, but do your best). If it’s not ready leave it in for another 5-10 mins, watching to make sure the apples don’t burn. Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack before removing it. This will allow the cake to shrink away from the pan sides, making it easier to remove.
Once completely cooled, sprinkle it with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature or cold. You can totally serve it warm and it goes especially well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or pecan praline or (thanks to our friends Dan & Tim), Humphry Slocombe’s Cinnamon Brittle or Secret Breakfast ice creams with attitude. So fricking good.
- The batter is delicious so if you’re up for some raw egg, don’t scrape down the bowl “too well”.
- Once you’ve tried this cake you’re going to want to make it again….one twist is to add a tsp or two of grated citrus peel like orange or lemon. This will add a light freshness (a zing!) to the cake although you probably won’t need it.
- Instead of apples, you can try this recipe with pears (Bosc or Asian) as long as they’re still firm (under-ripe even) and crisp. You’ll want to add a tbsp. of lemon juice to the fruit and sugar mixture to balance the sweetness with a tart.
- If you’re going to make this in a bundt pan make sure you grease the pan really well with butter or shortening….otherwise, the sugary apple mixture (which caramelizes during baking) will stick like tar to the pan and it wont come out pretty.
- If you’re crazy add some nuts! Pecans, almonds, walnuts…whatever you like, just add it to the apple mixture before you layer the batter in the pan.