~ My NY Deli-Style Jewish Apple 'n Almond Cake ~
With Fall comes apples and all I have to do is walk into our backyard to get mine. I rarely start the apple season by baking a pie or a strudel because I happen to like this relatively easy-to-make cake much better. There are a lot of recipes for this cake floating around, all of them delicious, and almost every family has a baker in it that makes that family's favorite version. The basic recipe gets baked in a tube pan and the batter contains orange juice and vegetable oil. It is a very moist, dense, not overly sweet, yellow cake with a mixture of apples and cinnamon in the center as well as on top!
My version started with a recipe my mom was given by a woman she worked with back in the 1960's. My mom was a very-well-liked supervisor of a design department in the clothing industry and over the years worked with people from very diverse backgrounds. It was not unusual for her to come home at the end of the day with a pie, a cake or a confection that someone had baked for her. Every once in a while, mom would come home with what she called a "Jewish" apple cake. We'd have it for dessert that night for dinner, for breakfast the next morning and find the last of it in our school lunch boxes. It was years before I found out it was called "Jewish" because it contained no dairy products, which makes it a perfect dessert to serve for Kosher holidays and celebrations!
My ultimate version of this cake evolved over a period of a few years. As my palate became more sophisticated, so did my cake: I stopped using bottled orange juice and switched to using fresh, plus, all of the flavorful zest. When I began experimenting with citrus oils, orange oil got added for one more layer of decadent orange flavor. Then, one day while Joe and I were having lunch in a Long-Island delicatessen I ate a version that contained a lot more apples than I had been using as well as almonds... there was just no turning back from that!
8 cups peeled, cored then chopped into bite-sized chunks, tart baking apples, such as: Cortland, Granny Smith or Winesap, or a combination of apples, about 2 1/2 pounds of chopped apples
1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and completely cooled
2 cups total sugar, 1 cup for the apples and 1 cup for the batter
1 generous tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 large orange, all of its zest and 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons pure orange oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, and, 4-6 tablespoons flour, for preparing tube pan
Generously butter the entire inside of the pan, including the center tube. Add the flour. Holding the pan over the sink or trash can, shake, twist and turn the pan until the flour has evenly coated the entire surface, including the center tube. Shake out and discard any excess flour. Set aside.
~ Step 2. Prep apples as directed, placing in a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the almonds, 1 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the mixture until apples are evenly coated and the sugar is dissolved. Zest and juice the orange.
~ Step 3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Add the flour/baking powder mixture. You can add it gradually, but I just put it all in at once.
Continue to mix on low speed, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula, until the flour is thoroughly incorporated and a thick, spoonable batter has formed, about 1 minute.
~ Step 6. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! Using a large slotted spoon, remove and place half of the apple mixture in a medium mixing bowl. Take them from the top of the bowl. Allow all of the juices to remain with the rest of the apple mixture in the bottom of the bowl. The apples we just removed are the apples that will go on top of the cake. Set them aside!
~ Step 7. Using a large spoon, place half of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan, spreading it around as you go. Give the pan a few firm back and forth shakes to make sure the batter is evenly distributed.
~ Step 11. Bake cake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted at several spots comes out clean. This is a very dense, moist cake, so don't worry if it takes another 5-10 minutes to finish baking.
Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and set aside to cool, in pan for 15-20 minutes...
... The cake will be starting to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Using a sharp knife, completely loosen cake from sides of pan. Holding onto the tube portion of the pan, lift and transfer the cake, on the tube portion of the pan, to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 2 hours:
Special Equipment List: 10" tube pan (not a bundt pan); cutting board; vegetable peeler and/or paring knife; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; microplane grater; hand-held electric mixer; large slotted spoon; large spoon; cake tester or wooden skewer; cooling rack
Cook's Note: This cake is not only a great dessert, it is wonderful served like a coffee cake for breakfast the next morning. Personally, I like to place my slice in the toaster oven and when it comes out, let a pat or two of butter melt over the top. You can thank me later!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)