Man, I really have to get better at this blogging more than once a week thing. I blame fall, with it's cooler weather not making the world feel like march through the desert and therefore making me want to, you know, do stuff.
But then also fall brings pretty good blog fodder, like the best ever apple cake you will ever have (that is also a GREAT way to use up the ton of apples you seem to have acquired through various methods, hopefully legal, but whatever, I don't know your life).
Every year, we are inundated with apples in the CSA, apples and pears, actually. This is not really a problem for me, as I love apples and apple pie and apple crisp and all things apple. However, we have already discussed the fact that my darling husband is not a fan of cooked fruit (because he's wrong, that's why), and so rather than bake an apple pie and then be the only one to eat it, I set out to find out what cooked fruit he WILL eat.
Results? Applesauce (boring), and this apple cake.
The cake is essentially a traditional Jewish apple cake, and, this one is a variation of the Smitten Kitchen recipe (SHOCKER). I do a few things differently. First, I load that thing up with as much fruit as it will hold. None of this 2 or 3 apples bullshit--we are talking 4 pears and 5 apples. I like my fruit desserts to have FRUIT. Second, I've tweaked sugar levels and a bit of methodology to adjust to the massive amounts of fruit I pack in this sucker.
I made this nearly every week last year, and am already on track to do the same this fall. One forewarning--the recipe makes a massive cake. It calls for a tube pan, which is huge, for a reason. I've done it in a bundt pan (and had near overflow twice), and I've split it into two loaf pans as well, but it's not quite the same. If you can, go for the tube pan.
Also, I have yet to meet anyone who does not like this cake (or my friends are all very kind people and don't want to tell me to my face that it's awful, which is also just fine by me. I enjoy living my delusions), and routinely give enormous slices away to folks. I have it on good authority that if you are say, having renovations done on your house, it makes a fine bribe/encouragement/thank you to the folks doing the hard work. And having lived through renos, you really really want those dudes on your side.
First step, peel your apples and pears. I can't be the only one who changed her apple-peeling method after seeing Sleepless in Seattle and hearing about how Tom Hanks' wife used to peel the apples in one long curly unbroken string of peel, can I? That up there, under the pile of pear peels? Are six long, curly, unbroken strings of apple peel. 20 years of practicing right there.
Smitten Kitchen chunks her fruit up, but I'm not a fan of chunks. I like myself a hearty slice of apple, not too thin, not too thick. If my apple peeler whizmo worked better on butcher block countertops, this would be the perfect application for that thing--peel, core and slice all in one then just cut the spirally apple into quarters and voila. Instead, I slice these babies by hand, but I've gotten pretty fast at it by now.
Then you toss the fruit with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar. When using pears, I usually grate in a bit of nutmeg, because nutmeg. And of course, I use the vanilla sugar here, because der. Toss that stuff all together and set aside for later so it gets all nice and juicy.
I prefer my cakes to be of the one-bowl variety, because I am lazy. But barring that, I try to minimize the dishes I can when I can. And so the flour is weighed, then the baking powder and salt are on top of that. And I use the 4-cup measuring cup as a bowl, and measure first the oil, then the oj, then add in the sugar (which almost always goes with the wet ingredients), and last the 4 eggs and vanilla. Beat the crap out of that with a fork and then dump into the drys and stir.
I've cut down the sugar a bit here from 2 cups in the original recipe to 1 1/2, mostly because I use a shit ton of fruit in this cake. If the apples or pears are a bit tart, you can go up a bit. I've also swapped out half the sugar for brown sugar or maple sugar for a bit of variety.
One last thing about the OJ--it's a great flavor and traditional in this kind of cake, but still somewhat unexpected for something so apple-y. But if you don't have oj, try cider, apple juice, lemon juice, or anything else relatively flavorful. Booze might be a bit much, but why not try it?
See? One bowl, one measuring cup (and we'll just pretend the apples and pears aren't in another bowl).
Spray or butter the tube pan, otherwise it'll be a bitch to get out. Ask me how I know!
In the original method, you pour in about half the batter, layer on half the fruit, then top with the rest of the batter, and then the rest of the fruit. But I like my fruit scattered throughout, so there are a few ways to do that.
The first way, and the one I wind up doing the most, is to add more layers. Spread a little batter, scatter some fruit (including the sugary juices!). Do it again, spreading the batter a bit with a spatula before adding the fruit. Keep doing it, adding layers until you run out, but be sure to finish up with the last of the fruit.
Alternately, pour a bit of batter in the bottom, then dump most of the fruit into the remaining batter, reserving a few handfuls, and give a stir. Pour that mixture into the pan, and top with the remaining fruit. I don't love how the sugary cinnamony juices incorporate into the batter, leaving it somewhat homogeneous and not streaking the final cake with delicious streaks of sugar and cinnamon, so I don't usually go this route.
This pan right here? Weighs about a ton.
And then the sucker bakes in a 350 degree oven for--no joke--an hour and a half. And frankly, longer. The more fruit you add, the longer it will take to fully set, so don't be shy with a cake tester (or toothpick, or skewer, or sharp knife) and poke that cake to see when the tester comes out dry. Because of the amount of fruit you've packed in there, it's very hard to overbake this cake and have it come out dry.
The cake keeps exceptionally well for several days, also because of the amount of fruit you've packed in there. It only gets better and more moist. Which is good because it is MASSIVE.
Here's the recipe!
Jewish Apple (and Pear) Cake
- 6 to 8 (to 10) apples and/or pears, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 5 tbsp, divided
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 cup oil (sunflower, canola, melted coconut oil, melted butter etc)
- 1/4 cup oj
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 large eggs
- 2 3/4 cups flour (345 grams)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp table salt (or 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, give or take)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spray a large tube pan (or bundt pan, or two loaf pans) with non-stick spray. Set aside.
Toss the peeled and sliced apples and pears with 5 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Set aside.
Mix the oil, oj, vanilla, remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and eggs until well combined.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Dump in the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
Assemble the cake: spread a bit of batter into the bottom of the pan, add a layer of apples and their juices. Spread a bit more batter on top, layer on more apples. Repeat until all batter and apples have been used up, ending with a layer of apples. Alternately, pour a bit of batter into the bottom of the pan, stir most of the apples into the remaining batter, reserving some for topping, and spread into pan. Top with remaining apples.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours to 1 hr 45 min, or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Let cool, then remove from pan. Keeps very well in an airtight container, and is better second and third days.