This dense, fruity cake is easy to make, perfectly balanced, and has an unbeatable texture.Jump to Recipe
The Best Way to Bake with Apples
I’ve always loved apple desserts, specifically apple pie. We always enjoyed a homemade apple pie on Thanksgiving and it was one of the many recipes of the day that I look forward to all year. Growing up, it was my favorite way to enjoy apples. That was until I tried Jewish apple cake (quite some time later, I might add). As I didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, I wasn’t introduced to many traditionally Jewish recipes- until I met my husband. Once we began dating and spent our first Hanukkah together, I fell in love with the rich history of the food in Jewish culture. Each recipe truly told a story and I was captivated by each one.
Once we became engaged and I hosted my first Hanukkah, I knew that I just wanted to learn more about traditional Jewish recipes. The Jewish apple cake was a must-make on my list. Learning the history behind the recipe and why certain ingredients are used while others aren’t, convinced me I had to make the dessert for myself. And I couldn’t be happier with the outcome! This Jewish apple cake is dense, yet moist. Sweet but not overly sweet. Fruit-forward but not overpowering so. Let’s just say that one bite is perfectly balanced and leaves you wanting more!
What is a Jewish Apple Cake?
This dense cake is made with fresh apples and is believed to have originated in Poland. Apples are common in Jewish Ashkenazi cooking and this dessert is usually served on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. Apples are big part of this special holiday as, traditionally, apples were dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the hope for a sweet year ahead. Nowadays, it’s very popular in the United States, specifically the east coast. It’s a well-known dessert throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Delaware.
One of the special aspects about this cake is that it doesn’t contain any dairy products. In place of butter, vegetable oil is used. This is because under Jewish dietary laws, mixing meat and milk is prohibited. This is commonly referred to as kosher food, or foods that conform to to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut. Essentially, this recipe is dairy-free to follow and respect Jewish tradition.
How to Prepare the Apples
You may have guessed by the name that the most important ingredient is, in fact, the apples. When baking with apples, the kind of apple you use does matter. There are a variety of apples, each with their own texture and flavor. Some are some and fruity, while others are much more crisp. If you’ve made an apple pie before, then you’re probably familiar with the best type of apples for baking.
- Honeycrisp: Often confused with gala apples, the honeycrisp apple gets its name for a reason. While similar in coloring, this apple is more crisp, juicy and has a slight tartness to them.
- Gala: These apples have a sweet, mild flavor with a slight crisp. They’re great for baking because you can typically use less sugar thanks to their natural sweetness.
- Granny Smith: Also known as the green or sour apple, the Granny Smith is often used in apple sauces, pies, and tarts.
- Golden Delicious: Although it has the same color as the Granny Smith, the Golden Delicious has a thinner skin and a sweet, mellow flavor.
There’s no “right” apple to use for Jewish apple cakes. For this recipe, I used Gala apples but any of the above will do! As well, you can also mix a variety of apples to have a unique flavor profile.
A Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Batter
Now that we’ve established this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free, it’s time to get into what the batter its made of! The dry ingredients are nothing noteworthy as the remain similar to most my baked good recipes. The dry ingredients are a blend of gluten-free flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. My favorite flour and the one I used for 90% of my baked goods is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. This flour is beautiful, light, and has xanthin gum in it. Which means one less ingredient for you to buy!
The list of wet ingredients are a bit longer than the list of dry ingredients but still basic. We start with a blend of cane and brown sugar combined with vegetable oil. Use an electric mixer to combine the sugars and oil until creamy. Next, four eggs are added into the bowl. Add one egg at a time, mixing between to thoroughly incorporate each egg into the batter. Then, add a little less than a cup of almond milk and a splash of vanilla extract. Almond milk is an easy and great alternative to milk and yields a creamy batter. In other Jewish apple cake recipes, orange juice is often used. Although orange juice pairs well with the apple, I like the batter more with almond milk. After those ingredients are mixed into the batter, sift half the dry ingredients into the bowl. Use the mixer to beat on medium speed until combined.
Before adding the other half, add in three fourths cup of apple sauce. Apple sauce has multiple purposes in this recipe. First, it is a great replacement for oil. Although we’re using vegetable oil, it is considerably less than other recipes. This is because vegetable oil is a trans fat and ultimately bad for your health. The less we can use the better! As well, apple sauce helps keep the batter moist. Think of it as a dairy-free alternative to using sour cream or yogurt in baked goods. Finally, the apple sauce enhances the apples in the recipe and makes the recipe very fruit forward. Once the apple sauce is mixed into the batter, the other half of the dry ingredients can be sifted in. Use the electric mixer one more time to incorporate all the ingredients for the Jewish apple cake batter.
Layering the Apple Cake
Unlike other recipes that fold the apples into the batter, the traditional Jewish apple cake uses a layering method. It starts with an even layer of batter poured into a large bundt cake pan. Then, a layer of apples is added over the batter. Here’s the key to the layering: you don’t cover the apples. Instead of pouring the batter over the apples to the very top, you use a spoon to drizzle the batter over the fruit. Next, you add another layer of apples and continue this process until a final layer of batter is added. Finally, you bake the cake at 350 degrees for 75 minutes!
The Dairy-Free Frosting
Vanilla frosting is very straight forward to make. While dairy-free frosting may sound intimidating, it too is easy and fast to make. The only difference is using dairy-free butter or margarine in place of regular unsalted butter. Soften your dairy-free alternative by allowing it to sit at room temperature for thirty minutes to one hour. Then, sift two cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Sifting helps ensure there are no lumps in the frosting. Once the butter has softened, add it to the bowl and use an electric mixer to combine. It’ll take some time for the butter to mix with the sugar but just continue to do so on low speed.
Once combined and creamy, add a splash of vanilla extract to the bowl. Mix again on low speed for less than a minute. Make sure not to over mix the frosting. It’s very easy to do so and can turn the frosting from silky smooth to grainy in no time. Finally, refrigerate the frosting for 20 minutes before frosting. When the cake has cooled to room temperature, generously frost the top of the bundt cake. Finish the cake with fresh orange zest before serving.
Gluten-Free Jewish Apple CakeCourse: DessertDifficulty: Easy
This sweet cake is such a delicious way to use apples and pay homage to a Jewish holiday.
- For the Apples
5 Gala apples, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
- For the Batter
4 cups gluten-free baking flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup almond milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup apple sauce
- For the Dairy-Free Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons dairy-free butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange zest for garnish
- For the Apples
- Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix together, then set to the side.
- For the Batter
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large bundt cake pan
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt
- In a large bowl, add the two sugars and vegetable oil
- Use an electric mixer to combine the sugars and oil for 90 seconds on medium-low speed
- Then, add the eggs one at a time, mixing between to well incorporate
- Add the almond milk and vanilla extract, then beat to combine on medium-low speed
- Slowly sift in half the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing on medium speed to incorporate.
- Add the apple sauce and mix again before adding the other half of the dry ingredients
- Once thoroughly mixed, add an even layer to the bottom of the prepared cake pan
- Next, cover with a layer of apples
- Drizzle the batter over the apples, but don’t completely cover them
- Then, add more apples and repeat this process until you end with a layer of batter
- Bake for 75 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
- Remove from oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes
- Finally, remove from pan and cool on a wire rack
- For the Dairy-Free Frosting
- Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, then add the dairy-free butter
- Use an electric mixer to cream together until smooth
- Add the vanilla extract and mix again
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then frost the top of the bundt cake once cooled
- Garnish with fresh orange zest and enjoy!
- Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator up to three days