This coming year is 5772, at least on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year holiday) starts next week, at sundown on Wednesday, September 28th. Unlike the secular new year, the Jewish holiday is spiritual and begins a period of thoughtful contemplation that leads up to a day of fasting on Yom Kippur.
Of course, if it’s Jewish, there is going to be food – and plenty of it. (Even the Yom Kippur fast is traditionally followed by a delicious meal.) The Rosh Hashanah food traditions include apples and honey and other sweets – to make for a sweet new year. My favorite Rosh Hashanah dessert is this apple cake.
I baked one last night and was going to freeze it for Rosh Hashanah dinner next week, but I am weak willed and it smelled so good. As it came out of the oven, a certain hungry looking guy looked over my shoulder and asked if he could have a piece. He even said “please.” How could I say no? We ended the evening with tea and apple cake, a little ahead of religious schedule, but a fitting way to get me in the mood to write this post.
This apple cake is a gem. It is moist and delicious, sweet without being overbearing. It goes well with ice cream, but stands beautifully on its own. You can sprinkle confectioner's (powdered) sugar on it for a fancy top, but it doesn’t need icing to look beautiful. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive. Plus, if you have “fear-of baking”, a terrible condition that afflicts too many, then this is the cake for you. If you’ve heard that baking is an exacting process, and that less-than-perfect measurements ruin your cake, never fear – not the case here. And if the usual baking instructions about sifting this into that give you hives, not to worry. You don’t have to sift for this cake. Finally, if you are kosher and don’t include butter or other dairy in a meal that includes meat, this non-dairy (pareve) cake can be served with a meat meal.
If you don’t celebrate Jewish holidays and aren’t kosher, you should try this cake anyway - a wonderful way to use your fall apples for a dinner dessert, a brunch cake, or an afternoon coffee/tea break.
Rosh Hashanah apple cake
Serves 10. Total cost - $10.58 for entire cake (less than $1.10 per serving)
- 1 cup canola oil (Other oil that doesn’t have a strong taste is fine. Not olive oil.)
- 2 cups white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups all purpose white flour
- 1 cup raisins – I use a combination of dark and golden, but you could use all one or the other.
- ⅓ cup orange or apple juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups of peeled, chopped apples – Golden and red delicious, and Granny Smith varieties work well. So does a combination of different types. Macintosh and Rome are the only types I have found that do not work especially well. Generally 2-4 apples will yield 3 cups chopped, depending on the size of the apples.
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Cooking oil spray to coat the pan (or a bit of regular canola oil)
- Optional – if you like a dusting on top, then about 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar.
- Large bowl
- Large fork
- Measuring spoons
- 1 cup liquid measuring cup
- 1 cup solid measuring cup
- Cutting board
- Small bowl
- Bundt or tube pan
- Wire cake rack for cooling cake
- Apple slicer (if you’re lazy and love gadgets, like me)
- Wooden bowl and chopping blade for nuts
- Small strainer and spoon for confectioner’s sugar topping
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Chop the nuts.
- Put the orange or apple juice in a small bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.
- After the juice is heated, add the raisins and let them soak while you put the other ingredients together. They will absorb some of the liquid and get plumper.
- Oil the pan with the spray or a bit of oil on a paper towel. Make sure all the crevices are coated.
- Peel the apples and cut them, first into slices and then cut the slices into pieces roughly 1” long. Don’t be concerned about their exact size. I use my thumb to measure the size - approximately from my thumb fingernail finger to the first knuckle.
- Put oil and sugar in the large bowl and mix.
- Add the eggs and mix.
- Add flour and mix. By now the mixture is a bit stiff. That’s fine.
- Add the raisins and juice in which they are soaking, then mix.
- Put the salt, cinnamon, baking soda and vanilla in and mix thoroughly.
- Add the apples and mix.
- Add the nuts and mix.
- Put the mixture in the greased pan. It will not flow, as the batter is thick. You will have to push it into the pan. Even the batter in the pan with the spatula, so the top is relatively smooth.
- Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 20 minutes. The cake is done when a knife inserted in it comes out clean (no wet batter sticking to the knife.)
- Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. If you have a wire rack, put the pan on that rack so air can circulate underneath the pan. If you don’t have one but you have a gas or electric stovetop with burners that allow air underneath, then put the pan on a cool stovetop. After the cake has cooled, gently run a knife edge around the outside and inside of the tube, place a plate or the wire cooking rack on the top of the cake and turn it over. The cake should release onto the plate or rack. (If it doesn't, then gently work the knife in a bit farther bent from the outside rim toward the center.) Let it cool further.
- When totally cool, you can dust it lightly with confectioner’s sugar.