Crunchy Apple Cake, aka Jewish Apple Cake, aka The Religious Intentions of Cake?

By Jean Graubart
Director, Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

The colors on the trees and the chill in the air are a couple of ways that we know that autumn is here.  Another is that the apples are crisp and tart and at their peak of taste, so it is a perfect time to bake an apple cake.

Over a year ago, I was in a Whole Foods store, wandering through their bakery and saw a cake that struck me.  It was called “Jewish Apple Cake.”

I went up to the person at the cake counter and asked, “What other cakes do you have that are religious?”

She looked puzzled and I showed her the Jewish Apple Cake and asked her what made it Jewish.  She replied, “I guess Jews like it,” and walked away.  I put it down, amused but also a little annoyed because I didn’t appreciate taking our religion to the level of cakes.

As I often do in this season, I baked what I refer to as Crunchy Apple Cake, a recipe I got from the Hadassah chapter in Fort Worth, Texas.  I was Director of the Senior Adult Department at the JCC and in this rather small Jewish community, we asked every organization to take a day a year and program for the seniors.

On Hadassah’s day, they made lunch and always, always this Crunchy Apple Cake, which everyone loved, me included. Along with my daughter Hadara, born in Fort Worth, I took the recipe with me when we left, and I have made it for years and years.

When I served it to my guests last year for dessert, my brother-in-law, born and bred in Brooklyn, took one taste and said, ‘I haven’t had “Jewish” Apple Cake since I left New York!’

So, here it is, perfect for dessert with vanilla ice cream (I have served it with parve vanilla pudding), for tea with whipped cream, or for breakfast, straight up.  A nice dessert for Thanksgiving for those non-pie people.

CRUNCHY APPLE CAKE – or if you so desire, Jewish Apple Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large apples diced
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.
Add chopped apples and mix.
Make a well in the center and add oil, eggs, vanilla.
Mix well. (It is a heavy dough.)

Spray a bundt pan with a generous amount of baking spray.
Spoon dough into pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Remove from pan when a little cooled.
Cake will be crispy on the outside, moist inside.

Whatever you call it, enjoy, enjoy, bete avon!

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