Not above pilfering content for my website from my nearest and dearest, I talked my mom into coming over (and heaving up all 51 stairs–she likes to count them) on Sunday to bake the cake with me for the New Years dinner at my in-laws today. I wanted to get the recipe down, but also to get the back story on the cake recipe. In bits and pieces, I remember it being called at different times a “German Apple Cake” and a “Jewish Apple Cake”, though what made it either was unclear. I suspected that if was indeed German, it came over with her parents as they escaped the Holocaust. I imagined that my grandmother and her mother before her must have made this cake often, as it uses such simple ingredients but the final product is so much better than the sum of its parts.
As it turns out, the actual story is, uh, a little less romanticized. My mother has been making this cake not for 60-something years, but since I was a kid. And the recipe, it didn’t come from her mother or her mother’s mother (“My mother? Bake a cake? Ha!” my mother said.) but a clipping that a neighbor gave her from some now-defunct magazine. Entirely crushed that the recipe involves no escapes from terror, no bits of the old country, no tales of war rations or ingredients that don’t translate well into English, I briefly considered where my more interesting history of the cake should be the only story I tell, but alas, I am a terrible liar and find the vast expanse between my version and the actual truth to be as funny of a story as any.
My grandchildren, however, will be able to talk all about how this recipe was passed down their crazy Grandma Deb (with the awesome hair, I hope they’ll add), because we’re not getting rid of it any time soon.
Mom’s Apple Cake
6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.