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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on Sunday evening, and the people in my house would get pretty ornery if I skipped the holiday’s traditional brisket or kugel. But I also like to change up some dishes, like sides and desserts.
In many homes, honey cake is traditional on Rosh Hashanah, but it’s this apple cake recipe that shows up in my house, and not only during the holidays. It makes other appearances Just Because. Just because it’s fall, just because I went apple picking, just because people are coming over for brunch.
Let’s home in for a moment on the apples. In many homes, apples are dipped into honey at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah meal for a sweet year to come. Joan Nathan, an authority on Jewish food and author of 11 cookbooks, says apples have been associated with the holiday since the Middle Ages.
“Every Jewish holiday is a seasonal holiday, and used what was available,” Nathan says. “Honey was everywhere and it represented sweetness for the new year, but so were apples. I would personally have apples rather than honey cake for dessert because they are so abundant and I like them better.”
Nathan says apples at Rosh Hashana symbolize plenty, abundance and hope for the new year. She makes a “Jewish apple cake” for the holiday, using oil instead of butter, often serving it after a meal of Alsatian chicken dish with apples. (Kosher rules say you can’t mix dairy — like butter — with chicken or meat at the same meal.)
My version of apple cake is super easy and good and tender and moist, and takes very little time to throw together. It is made with butter, so if you are keeping kosher, make sure it is served as part of a parve or dairy meal.
A delicious new take on traditional Jewish honey cake can be seen here, paired with apples, a staple of Rosh Hashanah.
(Cheyenne Cohen via AP)
Note that the batter will feel a little thin compared to more traditional cake batters. That’s intentional – it’s a delicately textured cake.
A simple mix of cinnamon and sugar gives the cake a crunchy, sweet topping laced with the spice that is the most perfect partner to apples in the history of spice partners to apples.
For baked goods, you want a firm apple that won’t turn into mush when it’s cooked. How tart or sweet it is is up to you.
Sometimes apples are grated before they are added to cake batters, but here they are roughly chopped so you get real bites of apples in every bite of cake. Make sure the pieces are no more than about 1/3 inch big though or the cake won’t hold together so well.
This cake keeps, wrapped at room temperature, for a couple of days.