Friday, September 30, 2011

Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake

It's that time of year again...Shana Tova, or Happy New Year. Last year I made a traditional challah to celebrate the Jewish new year with my family but this year I wanted to do something different. I still wanted to bake something with apples because it is customary to eat apples on Rosh Hashanah and I found a highly rated recipe for an apple cake on It was especially appealing to me because it had so many positive reviews and a lot of people commented on how the cake tasted better with age, meaning I could make it a day ahead and serve it the next day knowing it would taste great.

The recipe was quite easy to follow but it was challenging to know how long to bake the cake for because so many of the reviews gave differing opinions. Some commented that the time called for in the recipe was too short, others claimed it was too long and their cake burnt. I think part of the problem was the fact that the cake bakes in a bundt pan and it's very hard to judge when the inside has truly baked through. I used a long wooden kebab skewer as I would a toothpick and that allowed me to poke down all the way through to the bottom of the cake. In the end I actually ended up baking the cake for exactly the time listed in the recipe, though I was watching it like a hawk for the last fifteen minutes making sure I didn't burn it. In fact, for the last ten minutes I covered it in aluminum foil because I could see the top was already done but the skewer was coming out with batter stuck to it every time I tested the cake.

Interestingly enough, I actually wasn't home when my family ate the cake because I had my first clinical shift at the hospital. I had taken some pictures of the cake before I left, but I really wanted to have some pictures of the sliced cake as well and I left that task to my mother. She was quite nervous that she wouldn't be able to capture the cake in a good way that I would like but I assured her that I trusted her photography and food styling skills. Besides, I'm definitely no expert when it comes to food photography and the only reason why I have gotten better at it is because I have a lot more practice now. Although I like to have a good picture, ultimately the food itself and the taste is most important to me; therefore I try my hardest to take a nice shot but in the end I make do with what I have and edit the pictures to look as good as I can given my photographic and editing abilities. I am proud to say that my mother took many wonderful pictures and the one featured above was one that she took.

My family enjoyed the cake and left me some to try when I got home. It had a very strong apple flavor, which is to be expected considering I used four whole apples in the cake, but it was a little too sweet for my taste. I used McIntosh apples because that's what we had on hand but I think that in the future I would prefer to use Grannysmith because I like they way they taste when they're baked better than other types of apples. I noticed that the next day the cake became softer, especially around the bottom where the majority of the apple chunks were concentrated. I'm not sure which texture I liked better but overall I think it was a successful cake. I particularly loved how regal it looked coming out of the bundt pan and I'm going to try and use the bundt pan more often in the future.

Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake
Note: Baking time may vary. Personally, I found 70 minutes to be just right, with the last 10 minutes spent covered, but other reviewers have claimed the time too long or to short. I would start to check on it every 5 minutes around the 45 minute mark in order to make sure it doesn't burn but does get baked through.
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil (can substitute apple sauce like I did)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Another picture taken by my mother.
  • 5 tsp sugar
  1. Combine the apple chunks with the cinnamon and sugar and mix well until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.
  3. Mix in the oil (or applesauce if using), eggs, orange juice, and vanilla. The batter will be quite thick.
  4. Butter and flour a 10" tube or bundt pan. Alternatively, spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Alternate pouring in the batter and topping with apple chunks. You should have three layers of batter and two layers of apples, starting with the batter. Pour the juice from the apple mixture on top of the last layer of batter and lightly spread around.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 70 minutes. To test the doneness of the cake, poke with a long skewer or use a butter knife to reach the deepest parts. Bake until the skewer or knife comes out clean. 
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. To remove, shake the pan back and forth until the cake starts to loosen in the pan then carefully invert it onto a plate. Top with some powdered sugar if desired.

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