A beloved — and most-requested — family recipe.
Of all the fancy desserts I know how to make as a former pastry chef, this simple family recipe for Jewish apple cake remains at the very top of my rotation: requested often, devoured always. Very easy to make, this Jewish apple cake looks like how autumn on a Vermont farm feels (or so I imagine), and fills the house with the aroma of cinnamon, apples, and vanilla.
This Jewish Apple Cake recipe came from my mom’s home economics class back when she was in high school. It was the first thing she learned to bake on her own, but certainly not the last: She is a fabulous home baker.
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Many of my best recipes come not from cookbooks or a website, but from simple recipe cards, passed along from neighbor to neighbor, grandmother to mother to daughter, friend to friend, and so on.
I pull out these trusty family recipes time and again from my beloved wooden recipe box my late husband crafted for me from his grandfather’s felled cherry tree. These recipe cards, with their handwritten ingredients and side notes, grow a little more smudged, and thus a little more loved, with every use.
Though this recipe calls for tart apples, this cake would work equally well in summer by substituting in ripe peaches or plums.
What is your favorite family dessert recipe? Tell us in the comments below.
Jewish Apple Cake
For the Apples
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 5 each large granny smith or other tart, firm baking apple, sliced thin
For the Cake
- 1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I like canola)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 each eggs
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a standard-sized tube pan.
For the Apples
- Peel the apples and slice thinly, about 1/4" to 1/3" -thick chunks, and place them into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Stir and allow to sit and get juicy while you make the cake batter.
For the Cake Batter
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream sugar and oil until light and emulsified. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is well blended.
- With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. It is time to add each egg when the previous one is mostly mixed in.Kick the mixer up to medium, and cream until lightened, fluffy, and smooth, about three minutes. Scrape the bowl at least once during this part.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low until partially combined. Scrape the bowl. (Notice a trend?)
- Add the orange juice and mix batter on low until combined. Scrape the bowl and make sure the batter is completely smooth. Do not over mix.
Assemble and Bake
- Pour about a third of the batter into the tube pan. Layer a third of the apples on top. Repeat twice, ending so that apples are covering the entire top of the cake.
- Bake about 1 hour 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let rest on a cooling rack. When pan is cool enough to handle and the cake has set up a bit (around 20 minutes), invert onto the cooling rack. PRO TIP: To invert a cake properly, run a small offset spatula or thin knife around the cake pan's edges to loosen the cake from the pan's walls. Flip the cake over onto the cooling rack, so it is now upside-down. Then, placing another cooling rack on top of the inverted cake, flip it back over so the cake is right-side up again. Let cool completely. If you only have one cooling rack, you can do the initial flip onto a plate, since you'll immediately be flipping it back again.
Powdered Sugar Glaze
- In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and mix, and stir with a whisk or spoon until smooth. Spoon glaze over the top of the cake, allowing some to pool on top, and some to drip down the sides. Serve.