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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.
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.
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
Photos by James Ransom