Heavenly Apple Cake

September  2, 2013

Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.

Today: The cake you should make this fall, again and again.

Heavenly Apple Cake from Food52

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Every Rosh Hashanah, I go on the hunt for the best the apple cake. I must have baked half a dozen cakes on this site alone. It’s as if somehow perfecting this particular dessert -- which symbolizes a sweet new year and is a great alternative to the cloying and usually-disappointing honey cake -- (I am sure your bubbe made a GREAT honey cake, don’t email me) -- would wipe out the year’s transgressions. 

Heavenly Apple Cake is particularly good for a large group, and is made special by the addition of dates soaked in calvados and a heavy dose of sugar. While it’s baking, your house will smell as close to heaven as you can imagine. 

So, to your burning questions: 

1. What type of apples should I use? A: I did half granny smith and half whatever was in the farmer’s market (yes we have summer apples in DC.) Anything slightly tart will work. 

2. Do I really need to peel them? A: You should. They will be much easier to chop and nicer to bite into. 

3. Am I supposed to add the soaking calvados at the end or what? The recipe does not say. A: I posed this to the community and the answer was to discard it, or, as David suggested, drink it. (Have you all met David here? He likes salad.)

4. What do I do if my ten year old wants to help me bake and wants to discuss twerking? A: Tell her that self-respect comes from strong female friendships and the ability to do the dishes, and hand her a dirty bowl.

5. My batter looks like cookie dough, is that okay? A: Yes. It’s weird that way. Hand mix it well. 

6. Is this cake as butt-ugly as the author keeps insisting? A: This cake is perfectly acceptable served on the table, even with your mother-in-law there. Oh, and the cake took only 45 minutes to bake, so watch your oven, people!

7. Should this cake be made only for the Jewish New Year? A: Of course not, but it helps to be in search of sweet beginnings. So for all of you lost in Dante’s dark woods and those who have made their way out; for you who are longing and those who understand the good that is good enough; for those who asked but found the wrong answer, and for those who never knew to inquire: Have a piece of cake. Life generally improves.

Heavenly Apple Cake from Food52

Heavenly Apple Cake by Veronica

Serves 12 to 16

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 to 3/4 cup apple brandy (or Calvados)
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoons salt
4 cups slightly tart apples: peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/2 cup melted sweet butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Icing sugar for decoration 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


Vannes_Et_Sa_Femme October 7, 2021
If you can get your hands on a pommeau instead of calvados, do it. Also to make it GF, I did a 50/50 blend of almond flour and brown rice flour, and used 1/4 cup of salted butter in addition to the sweet butter. It was divine.
J-mart61 September 8, 2021
Great recipe but next time I would reduce sugar content and use a more tart apple. ( I only had gala on hand). But it was moist and delicious and easy to make. Almost even better the next day!
Kate October 27, 2013
Bet this would be great with cardamom, too!
dymnyno October 16, 2013
Just curious...what does Rosh hashana have to do with apple cake? It is a gorgeous cake!
Paula Z. September 21, 2014
Apples are a traditional food for the Jewish New Year: from slices of apple dipped in honey (the hope for a sweet and good year, they also represent the Shechinah - the feminine side of G-d), to a mixed salad with a honey-mustard or Bleu dressing, all the way to an elaborate Tarte Tatin, they are incorporated into as many dishes as possible. My own take is an Austrian Kuchen, a recipe from my mom, which can be made with a lot of kinds of fresh fruit.
anne October 3, 2013
Oh, and everyone stop worrying about the booze and fruit. I use raisins and spiced rum as I had them in my pantry. Any combination or no combination will do just nicely. Really. It's all about the apples and cinnamon anyways.
anne October 3, 2013
This cake is fun to bake. It looks like a giant cookie as it goes from a stiff, thick batter then to a normal spread out cake looking batter after a bit of time in the oven. I had my doubts, let me tell you, when I was stirring ( and stirring and stirring) that batter but like magic, it becomes cakey. :)
mlledaffodil September 18, 2013
Calvados worriers: you can sub any apple-friendly spirit -- boubon, rum, amaretto, but you will lose the extra apple-oomph (but you may prefer your sub better anyway). Go for apple cider to get that apple boost -- and for non-alcoholic, use apple juice. And again, for a less appley alternative, o.j. will work well. BTW, you don't have to buy "calvados" -- that is just French apple brandy, which is widely available and just fine to cook with.
Jessica F. September 15, 2013
Made this for a dinner last night -- it was so good -- loved by all.
kath1 September 14, 2013
I used korean spirit instead of calvados. and I had to go out after an hour so turned off oven, later when I tried to turn it out had a handful of raw cake. quickly shoved back in, rebake. Very nice but variably wet according to the apple variety and I think would be great with a stronger flour, will try with rye.
n September 12, 2013
That's great. I wasn't going to use the Calvados anyway. This is a cake, not booze but what did you substitute. The liquid... .
Harry G. September 11, 2013
I'm not Jewish! If I were I would have this cake very Saturday. Might just have it anyway!
DMCherubim September 9, 2013
Your writing is beautiful! (7.) I'm a writer. I'm going to try your cake! I've been looking for a great apple cake recipe. Thank you!
Donna A. September 9, 2013
Okay, this was amazing. Didn't have Calvados so replaced it with Maple Whiskey. Absolutely amazing.
CJarolyn September 9, 2013
So delicious! I used apricots and only added 1 cup of sugar. I'm enjoying my second slice.
Carol September 9, 2013
Could I use frozen apples?
Foodiewithalife September 9, 2013
This is one of my all-time favorite desserts!

kath1 September 9, 2013
What can I use instead of dates for the dried-fruit-hating child?
TishAnn September 9, 2013
Chop the dates up fine and I guarantee the dried-fruit hating child wont notice. So speaks the dried-fruit (especially dates) hating adult.
Donna A. September 9, 2013
I hate dates as well. Chopped them up and didn't notice they were there at all, but it really added to the overall flavour.
Msprovemewrong D. September 9, 2013
Where do you get apple brandy from?
Susan P. September 8, 2013
What is calvados? My Nana made a Jewish apple cake that had no liquor--which is what I'm assuming calvados is--but was flavored lghtly with orange juice and cinnamon. I think it came from someone of Jewish descent with whom she had business dealings. It's my all-time favorite cake. Now I suppose I'll have to try this recipe.
Harry G. September 11, 2013
Calvados is Brandy made with apples from the region of Normandy (France) which bears its name. If you don't know of it then you will not have it in your Liquor cabinet so use whatever you have Cognac, Grand Marnier etc.
Hillary September 8, 2013
I'm going to try it because I love baking with booze. I'm also going to ramp up my usual Los of Apple cake by doing the calvados soak (the cake was a PB bake off winner a gazillion years ago). Marcy Goldman has the greatest not-too-sweet honey cake IMO especially if you sub triple sec for the optional whiskey.