The taxonomy of apple cakes took me a while to crack, but I think I've got it: there are fundamentally three types of apple cake, each with its many interpretations and subtypes. There is your as-American-as (but not really) apple pie, a double-crusted pastry baked in a round pan with layers of mildly spiced, thinly sliced tart apples for the filling. Based on European models, there are many similar versions on that side of the pond, including the Swedish apple cake that stars in the Ikea cafeteria. Then we've got what I think of as Eastern European-style apple cake, which generally has the thinly-sliced, spiced apples layered into the baking pan first with a relatively small amount of batter poured over them. There are lots of varieties, including Russian sharlotka, which wisely adds a caramel sauce on top of the apples before adding the batter.
And, finally, we come to Israeli-style apple cake, which seems to also get called Jewish apple cake. What sets it apart from the others is that it has bite-sized cubes of apple suspended in full-on cake batter. This, obviously, is what I think about when I think about apple cake. It's a simple, one-bowl cake and never ceases to garner compliments well outsized for its humble nature. I'd rate it a bit sedate for American tastes, with its lack of frosting and dairy products, something that might get lumped in with coffee cake as more of a breakfast item than a dessert. Still, it's more of a cake than a muffin and, after making its acquaintance, is readily adopted into the fall baking family. And, of course, it's perfect for Rosh haShanah and Sukkot.
Israeli Apple Cake (parve)
- Long loaf pan or square (8x8" / 20x20cm) cake pan
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup liquid oil, such as avocado or canola (coconut won't work here)
- ⅓ cup apple or orange juice
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 sweet, red apples - cored, peeled, and diced into small cubes
- ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350° / 175°C. Grease a long loaf pan or an 8" / 20 cm square cake pan.
- Using a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until light and increased in volume, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed.
- Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to the mixing bowl. Mixing by hand, stir gently until just combined.
- In a large glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine the oil, juice, and vanilla extract. Whisk together and pour into the mixing bowl. Stir gently to combine.
- Fold in the apples and, if using, walnuts.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (for either type of pan), until a cake tester comes out mostly clean and the cake is golden around the edges.