Jewish Apple Cake

Whether you call it a Jewish apple cake, Dutch apple cake, or German apple cake, this easy mix-by-hand cake full of cinnamon and apples is the perfect fall treat!

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

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I’ve made this cake quite possibly more than any other other cake I’ve ever made.  And it’s taken me 7 years into this food blogging journey to actually share the recipe.

There are tons of Jewish apple cake recipes out there, and all fairly similar — does the food blogging world really need another?  Plus, every time I make it, we’re always hosting some event and I run out of time to properly take pictures before guests arrive.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

But recently, our wonderful former next door neighbor texted me and said she scoured my blog for my “fabulous” apple cake recipe and couldn’t find it.  So enough is enough — it’s time to share this apple cake with the world.

Why is it called a Jewish apple cake?

Let’s start with the basics.  I know this as a Jewish apple cake – but what makes it Jewish?  Is it different from a German apple cake or a Dutch apple cake?  In short: no.  They are basically all the same thing!

Most historical data points to the cake originating with the Pennsylvania Dutch; hence Dutch apple cake (or German apple cake, for the German ancestry).

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

The name Jewish apple cake likely came about because this cake is dairy free, and thus can still be consumed with meals containing meat (in accordance with kashrut).

Probably adding to the naming confusion, apples are consumed at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  On Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet and fruitful new year.

While there is no honey in this Jewish apple cake, it’s still a very popular Rosh Hashanah dessert.  Even though the origin is likely not Jewish.  Confused yet?  Not Jewish in origin.  But often consumed for a Jewish holiday.  Got it.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

What kind of apples are best for baking?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to make this (super easy!) German/Dutch/Jewish apple cake, let’s talk a little about baking with apples.  I know how tempting it is to bake with whatever apples you keep on hand to eat.  I did this for years, too — we like to eat gala apples, so I usually used them for baking.

But! An eating apple and a baking apple are two totally different things.  And yes, you can taste the difference.  I’ve made this cake plenty of times with gala apples, but switching to a baking apple does make a difference.  The apples hold their shape better.  There is no mealy/gritty texture.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

In other words, buy specific apples for specific uses.

My personal favorite baking apples are Braeburn or Winesap, but these aren’t always the easiest to find (I have only ever seen them at our farmer’s market, not in a grocery store).  Granny Smith apples are usually available everywhere and are great for baking; also keep an eye out for Jonagold, Golden Delicious, or Honeycrisp apples.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

How to Make Jewish Apple Cake

One of the reasons I love this cake so much is that it’s so dang easy.  Because it uses oil instead of butter, the cake is mixed by hand — no need to pull our your mixer.

To start, combine peeled and chopped apples with some cinnamon and sugar.  Toss to coat and set aside.  This will help draw out some of the juices from the apples, to ensure the final cake isn’t too liquidy — and lets us pack in as many apples as possible without the cake falling apart!

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

One common question I get about this cake relates to the presence of apple cider (or orange juice, if you don’t have apple cider on hand).  As we previously discussed, this cake is dairy free, and thus contains no milk.

Not only does the cider provide the liquid component of the cake, it also plays an important role in keeping the cake super tender and moist.  It’s time for a little… kitchen chemistry!

An acidic ingredient, like apple cider, gives off hydrogen ions when dissolved in water.  These hydrogen ions, released into the solution, play a major role in altering the shape of proteins.  Free hydrogen ions are able to break the bonds that are necessary for protein structure, thus unfolding and denaturing the proteins.  This protein denaturation helps create an extra tender cake.  But too much acid, and the cake will lose its structure!

I like to use a vanilla bean paste for this cake — I think it adds an extra punch of vanilla flavor, and the white cake batter looks extra pretty with the brown specks from the vanilla beans.  My favorite brand of vanilla bean paste is the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, but if you don’t have any on hand, just use vanilla extract instead.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

Mix the batter by hand, then layer a little batter, some apples, another spoonful of two of batter, more apples, and repeat.  Drizzle the batter over the apples, covering them a little, but not fully.  As the cake bakes up and around the apples, this helps to ensure there are some apples in every bite, and not just all settled at the bottom (or the top) of the cake.

Bake for an hour and a half, cool briefly in the pan, and then turn out to cool.  Unlike a traditional bundt cake, which we flip upside-down, keep this apple cake right-side-up, so the top has a visible layer of apples.  To achieve this, use a tube pan, where the top and bottom of the pan are the same width.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake

Whether you call this a Jewish apple cake, a German apple cake, a Dutch apple cake, or just plain and simply an apple cake, this is an easy, crowd-pleasing perfect fall dessert.  Full of cinnamon and apples, Jewish apple cake smells and tastes just like fall!

More Fall Desserts:

All Bundt Cakes

Jewish Apple Cake

Whether you call it a Jewish apple cake, Dutch apple cake, or German apple cake, this easy mix-by-hand cake full of cinnamon and apples is the perfect fall treat!

Ingredients:

For the apples:
  • 6 apples, peeled and chopped (see above text for apple variety recommendations)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
For the cake:
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Grease a tube or bundt pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine apples with cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the oil, apple cider, sugar, and vanilla paste or extract in a large bowl.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, an salt.  Mix together until combined (batter will be thick), then add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
  4. Spoon a few tablespoons of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Cover the batter with a layer of apples.  Spoon a few more tablespoons of batter into the pan, drizzling batter over the apples but not covering them completely.  Add more apples to the pan.  Repeat, ending with a layer of batter.
  5. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Cake can be made ahead of time and frozen.  Once fully cooled, wrap cake in plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw overnight at room temperature.

Jewish Apple Cake: Jewish, Dutch, and German apple cake are all the same: an easy mix by hand dairy free apple cake. Full of apples and cinnamon, it's the perfect fall treat! #bunsenburnerbakery #cake #applecake #jewishapplecake