Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake

September 27, 2009

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

2018 update: TL;DR - YOU CAN'T MESS THIS UP!

1) Based on questions and comments, you can skip the step of sautéing apples and instead macerate just 3 very thinly sliced apples (16-20 slices per apple) for a half-hour in 1-2 T sugar and a splash of lemon juice to soften them - the apples will bake up just fine, but the top doesn't look as nice in my opinion. I've added a new photo baked this way (on the copper background.) A non-baker friend wrote:
"No precooking of the apples, only own olive oil, don’t even own a baking pan of the right size and it STILL came out great. Also already 1/2 gone gotta go make another one."

2) In addition, I made it with Cup4Cup GF flour and it worked like a dream.

3) This cake freezes well. First wrap tightly in plastic, then in heavy duty aluminum foil. If you want to reheat - make sure to remove the plastic from underneath the foil. Yes, you could just wrap in foil, but it doesn't stay as fresh.

4) See comments for lots of flavor variations.

While preparing four holiday meals for friends and family over the span of the two days of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) last week, I was reminded that there is a beauty in keeping things simple, both in the kitchen and out. So I was overjoyed to discover a cake that nearly bakes itself. I adapted a recipe touted as "The Easiest Cake Ever" -- meant for ripe pears or stone fruits dripping with juice -- to a slightly more traditional apple cake. Given that apples are not particularly juicy, I decided to first saute them in some margarine and sugar, giving them a slight caramelization as I would for a tarte tatin. I had leftover apples and the cake smelled so good in the oven that I whipped up a second batch of batter in about 5 minutes and popped the second cake in the oven while the first was cooling. [NOTE: the batter is adapted from, which is related to the Marion Burros cult plum cake.]


Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 1 hrs


For the apples

  • 4 apples - I used a variety (1 each of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Crispin)
  • lemon juice to prevent apples from browning as you cut (~1T)
  • 2 tablespoons margarine (or butter if making dairy)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar

For cake batter

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar (optional)
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform, or an 8X8-inch square pan. (If you want to plate this, use a springform; otherwise, just serve it out of the pan.)
  2. Peel and core the apples, then cut each apple into ~12 slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice (you don't need much - maybe a tablespoon or so for 4 apples) while the others are being sliced to prevent browning.
  3. Heat margarine in pan over low heat and add apples and 1-2 T white sugar. Stir for ~10-15 minutes until apples soften. Some of the liquid will soak into the apples, but if too much of it starts to evaporate, then turn the heat down.
  4. While the apples are on the stove top, mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar) -- flour, sugar (the 3/4 C), eggs, oil, baking powder, and vanilla. No mixer is required - you can just mix everything by hand even though the batter is quite thick.
  5. Add half the warm apples (juices and all) to the batter and mix. Then pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly with a spatula . Arrange the remaining apple slices on the top of the batter as decoratively as possible (though even a mishmash will look nice).
  6. Sprinkle the cake with demerara sugar if you'd like and bake for 1 hour. As it bakes, the high egg content causes the cake to rise up as the heavier fruit sinks slightly and the demerara sugar helps creates a crackly crunchy crust that caramelizes slightly at the edges and where the fruit juices pool.
  7. Cool in pan and serve. I doubt you'll have leftovers.

More Great Recipes:
Cake|Jewish|Fruit|Lemon Juice|Apple|Serves a Crowd|Fall|Rosh Hashanah|Dessert

Reviews (64) Questions (2)

64 Reviews

JulieS September 9, 2018
I was thinking of substituting honey for the sugar with the apples (and sauté them as in your original directions) to incorporate the “apples & honey” combo for Rosh Hashanah. Have you ever tried it this way?
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
I haven’t personally tried this, but as long as you’re not replacing the sugar in the cake batter with honey, you should be good - just be careful not to have the heat up too high because honey can burn more easily. Another way to up the honey flavor is to drizzle some honey over the cake after you’ve arranged the apples instead of using Demerara sugar.
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
L September 9, 2018
Did anyone try making this yet without sautéing the apples? If yes, how did it turn out?
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
I made 3 this way - turn out great, a little less pretty in my opinion. See update in headnote for greater detail.
Carolyn September 6, 2018
Can this be frozen ?
Author Comment
zahavah September 6, 2018
Oh absolutely, Carlyn! Wrap it well in plastic, then wrap it again in heavy duty aluminum. Defrost 4-5 hours before. If you want to heat it up before eating, make sure to take off the plastic!
Carly L. September 5, 2018
This may seem like a weird question but I'm making this parve. Is margarine dairy-free? If so, what brand do you recommend?
Author Comment
zahavah September 5, 2018
Hi Carly - not a weird question at all! Margarine is dairy free, and many of them are marked parve - e.g., if there is an O-U or an O-K without a "D" (for dairy) next to it, then you're all set. The brand I like is Earth Balance - get it unsalted - and it's what I use for this recipe. Also, this year, I'm going to try to skip the sautéing step, and instead just let the apple slices sit in the sugar for about a half hour to macerate and soften a bit. Let me know if you have other questions and Shana Tova!
Carly L. September 5, 2018
So you're saying instead of sauteing the apples in margarine, they can be softened just by letting them sit in sugar for half and hour and the cake will still come out good?
Author Comment
zahavah September 6, 2018
That is what I plan to do this year. I haven't done it with this specific cake but have with others. I have friends who have not bothered to saute (or macerate) at all and the cake comes out great. I wish I had already done the maceration experiment so I could provide better direction here.
Carly L. September 6, 2018
Well, I guess I'll do it this year and let you know how it goes 😀.
Author Comment
zahavah September 6, 2018
Carly - my guess (which I know isn't particularly reassuring) is that it'll work out just fine!<br />
Carly L. September 7, 2018
Ok. So just lay the apple slices in two tablespoons of sugar for half an hour? Also, would I be able to use an 8x8 inch square pan? I know your recipe says nine inches but 8x8 is the only ones I can find.
Author Comment
zahavah September 7, 2018
Yes - gently toss the apple slices with the lemon juice and 2 T sugar for 1/2 hour. Every once in a while, stir them around. They should release some liquid as they soften. Yes - an 8X8 square pan is perfect - it has the same area as a 9-inch round pan. I've gone ahead and corrected the recipe - thank you for your comment as it made me double check my numbers. If you want to be able to take the cake out of the square pan, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper (for parchment, just cut two 8-inch wide strips and lay them perpendicular in the pan). Good luck!
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
Carly - see above for update. Skipping sautéing works just fine.
Carly L. September 9, 2018
Okay thank you. And when you say 12 slices, do you mean 12 slices an apple or in total for four apples?
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
12 slices per apple (otherwise you’d have huge apple thirds!) - I believe this was addressed in earlier comments
Carly L. September 9, 2018
Ok. It's in the oven now. The only thing that worries me is that the batter looked really small.
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
Once you mix most of the apples in with their juices, the batter bulks up and the whole thing rises quite a bit in the oven.
Carly L. September 9, 2018 We shall see tomorrow how it tastes.
joan August 4, 2018
Hello, I want to make this cake and freeze it, for Rosh Hashana. Will this cake freeze well?
Author Comment
zahavah September 3, 2018
Hi Joan. So sorry for the late response. Yes - it freezes extraordinarily well. Wrap it well in plastic wrap, and then in heavy duty aluminum foil. Take it out a few hours before you plan to eat it. You had heat it in the oven if you'd like (just don't forget to remove the plastic wrap!). It's great for breakfast the next day. Shana tova!
Robyn W. September 15, 2017
What can be subbed for demerara sugar?
Amanda H. September 15, 2017
You could use raw sugar, light brown sugar or even just regular white sugar.
barb48 September 27, 2016
Can vegetable oil sub for Canola?
Author Comment
zahavah September 27, 2016
Hi there. Yes, you can absolutely use vegetable oil instead of canola. Shana tova!
Jennifer F. September 16, 2016
Would olive oil work instead of canola?
Author Comment
zahavah September 16, 2016
Hi Jennifer. I've never made this cake with olive oil (and I've made it many many times, and fruits other than apple), but I think it would work. Just bear in mind that canola has a more neutral flavor than olive oil and is less expensive. If you try it with olive oil, please let us know how it turns out.
Jennifer F. September 16, 2016
I'm going to give it a shot for Rosh Hashanah since I always have olive oil on hand and will let you guys know how it turns out. Thanks so much!
Jennifer F. October 3, 2016
Oli update - I made the cake yesterday for Rosh Hashanah and used olive oil - there were no leftovers so it worked well. I also add a handful or two of dark chocolate chips.
Samantha December 19, 2015
I've made this cake for Rosh Hashana a few times, it's amazingly easy and delicious, specially with a little Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream on top, people go wild. Last time I made it in a loaf pan and I liked the texture even more. The host at the RH dinner I brought it to last time even asked me to make him another one, he was gonna pay for it cause he liked it so much. Now I'm making it again for my Mother in Law to bring to her Christmas Eve dinner. Kinda ironic, but delicious recipes don't know religion.
Author Comment
zahavah September 3, 2018
So lovely to hear!<br />
barb48 September 13, 2015
There's no salt indicated in this recipe. Supposed to be that way?
Author Comment
zahavah September 16, 2016
Hi there - sorry for not responding earlier. Nope, there's no salt in cake, but you could probably add 1/2 teaspoon if you wanted to try.
Rachel September 7, 2015
Hi, I plan to make this for Rosh Hashanah this year. Quick question about the apples: should each apple be sliced into about 12 slices? Or 12 slices total for all the apples? This might be a silly question haha. About how think should the slices be? Thanks
Rachel September 7, 2015
Sorry, about how *thick
Author Comment
zahavah September 7, 2015
Hi Rachel - you can cut each apple into 12 slices, so they're pretty thin! Shana tova!
nancila September 7, 2015
Yes, each apple = 12 slices. Cut the apple in half and then, cut out the core from both sides. You will now have 4 pieces. Cut each piece into 3 and voila! 12 slices :-)
Rachel September 11, 2015
Thank you!
Taylor S. March 29, 2015
SO GOOD! I made a double recipe and put it in a 10-inch springform pan which was perfect. I ended up eating a huge slice! I did substitute some homemade yogurt for part of the oil which worked out nicely. Very quick and easy to whip up.
Author Comment
zahavah September 9, 2018
Thanks for the tip about yogurt!
Lisa R. July 11, 2014
Delicious!!! And so easy to make, that's true. Especially good if using tart seasonal apples. Thank you for the recipe!
Jennifer September 6, 2013
Delicious and easy to make!!! Thanks so much for this fantastic recipe. EVERYONE LOVED IT!!!!!
bebe L. March 24, 2012
Amazing cake. Thank you. I used butter instead of oil, demarara sugar and a bit of maple syrup for sauteeing the apples, a splash of brandy and two tablespoons of Greek yogurt in the batter. I ate some warm with a cappucino, and the rest was devoured by my family in minutes after dinner.
barb48 September 24, 2014
how much butter did you use to replace the 1/2 cup of oil?
Author Comment
zahavah January 17, 2012
Thank you minissimus, Thi, Nancila, and RachaelMR for your comments. I'm so glad that you've enjoyed this cake that has also become one of my go-to desserts. It's great with pears too!
Author Comment
zahavah January 17, 2012
Thank you minissimus, Thi, Nancila, and RachaelMR for your comments. I'm so glad that you've enjoyed this cake that has also become one of my go-to desserts. It's great with pears too!
minissimus January 15, 2012
Made a lovely desert for a brunch I "catered" for my wife. Easy to make from pantry ingredients. The only way to improve it is with a dollop of softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Thi November 19, 2011
I made this last week. Very easy but fantastic. The cake was light and the mix of apples give such great flavor.