I'd never really given much thought to why apple cake was synonymous with Jewish desserts until reading the intro to this Polish Hanukkah Apple Cake from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan. As it turns out, the Jewish part comes from the fact that the cake is parve (made without dairy) and therefore acceptable in a meal served for the main course.
For seasoned bakers not used to this dairy-less style of baking, making a dessert using oil as its primary fat might seem like a huge departure, but there's a certain allure to these parve desserts—and this Polish Hanukkah Cake is a great example.
The combination of eggs and oil creates a bright yellow batter that bakes into a moist crumb, which you'd never attain with milk and butter. The true test of this kosher parve cake? Serving it to a table full of folks entirely unconcerned with Jewish dietary laws. When I served mine accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (decidedly unkosher after a brisket dinner), the eaters were more than happy with their slices of super moist Jewish apple cake, filled with sweet-tart apple chunks, almonds, and a big hit of cinnamon.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous to give away this week.
- 1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pan
- 5 apples (3 Fuji and 2 Granny Smith, or any combination of sweet and tart apples), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2- inch pieces (about 6 cups)
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup walnut halves, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups all- purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a Bundt pan or a 9- by-
13- inch baking pan. Toss the apples in a large bowl with the zest and juice of the lemon, the walnuts, and the cinnamon. Pulse together the flour, baking powder, salt, almonds, and 11/4 cups of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. With the food processor running, add the eggs, oil, and almond extract, processing until just mixed.
Spoon 1/3 of the batter over the bottom of the pan. Scatter the apples on top, and cover the apples with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar (you’ll need less if using a Bundt pan). Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. The cake will take a shorter time to bake in the shallow rectangular pan than in the Bundt pan.