Growing up in a Jewish household, apple cakes were a traditional dessert. Known as “kuchen,” they were most fondly known as Jewish Apple Cakes and were served on the eve of Rosh Hashanah as a sign of happiness and prosperity in the New Year. Layered with cinnamon-sugar dusted apples and moistened by freshly squeezed orange juice, I wanted to create a recipe I could enjoy more than once a year.
toasted walnuts, chopped fine (about 1/4 cup)
medium apple, peeled, halved, cored, and chopped, into 1/4-inch pieces
FOR THE TOPPING: Toast walnuts in dry skillet over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Let cool completely. Chop fine, and stir together with turbinado sugar in small bowl until combined; set aside.
FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray standard-sized muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in large bowl. Whisk sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and smooth, about one minute. Slowly whisk in apple cider and applesauce until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into flour mixture until fully incorporated (batter will be thick but smooth).
Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to fill each muffin tin 2/3 full. Spread 1 tablespoon chopped apples evenly into each battered muffin tin and press down lightly to incorporate apples into batter. Equally distribute the remaining batter to cover the apples in each muffin (tins should be almost full). Spoon 1 teaspoon of apple butter into center of each muffin. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl apple butter into each batter-filled cup using figure-eight motion, pushing it below surface (push down any apples that come to the surface back into the batter). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon toasted walnut-sugar evenly over muffins.
Bake until muffin tops are light brown and just firm, 15-17 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.