in the house of goy — spiced apple cake for passover

by hungryrabbit on April 15, 2011

Spiced Apple Cake

You’d think having a Jewish partner, I’d have been to a Passover Seder meal at least once. Nope. Every year I hope like a silly school boy in yarmulke that I’ll be invited to someone’s home for a Seder. Instead, I end up at a gym working out with the rest of the goyum and lapsed Jews.

Some Jewish friends (non-observant today) have told me that having grown up with long Seder services with large gatherings of relatives—and some being the youngest child having had to read the Four Questions aloud in Hebrew from the Haggadah—they welcome the true intent of the holiday and relax as freed people (in this case from the annual family ritual). Others do one night and some observe both and look forward to the tradition. Most seem to follow an edited down version of the Seder service.

Of course, it’s the food that fascinates me. Every year as Passover approaches, you read, hear, and watch instructions on preparing the special dishes for this holiday.  Aside from the food items that are part of the service, I’ve been warned every family has its own traditions for the meal—and any single dish, such as chicken soup with matzo balls, can have dozens of variations. (If you want to start a “lively” discussion, ask two people who grew up with traditional Jewish cuisine what is the proper texture for matzo balls.)

As with every other part of the Seder meal and all food consumed during the eight days of the holiday, no leavening agent, such as yeast can be used (many traditions also ban baking soda and powder).  Since I couldn’t employ typical leavening, I used eggs instead.

Spiced Apple Cake uses matzo cake meal in the batter, but it’s essentially an apple dessert that uses the batter as just a binder. The multiple layers of apples are flavored with cinnamon, ginger and orange. The center is filled with brandy-soaked raisins for a little festive surprise.

Spiced Apple Cake is a dessert that you can make ahead, and its flavor improves with time. The cake is well suited for travel, if you happened to get an invitation to a Seder. Even if you don’t observe the holiday, you can enjoy a sweet ending.

Spiced Apple Cake

recipe adapted from Arthur Schwartz
makes one 8-inch cake


4 medium apples, about 2-1/4 pounds, such as Golden Delicious or Crispin
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup brandy
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup canola oil
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest, about 1 orange, freshly grated
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup matzo cake meal


1. Preheat oven to 350℉ with a rack set in the lower-middle position. Lined a  8-inch-cake pan with parchment paper and lightly spray pan with cooking spray, set aside.

2. Peeled, cored and halved the apples, 1/4-inch-thick slices.

3. Combine raisins and brandy in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave at 50% power for 90 seconds. Remove bowl from microwave and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Drained and set aside.

4. Combine sugar and orange zest in a small bowl, rub with fingers until fully incorporated.

5. Stir butter and oil in a separate measuring cup. Set aside.

6.. Combine 3/4 cup of orange/sugar mixture, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a medium bowl; set aside.

7. Add eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on medium-high speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in remaining 3/4 cup orange/sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick and foamy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, slowly pour in oil mixture until combined. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in matzo cake meal quickly until fully incorporated.

8. Pour half of the batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle over half of the walnut mixture, half of the apples, and raisins. Pour over remaining batter and top with remaining apples; sprinkle over remaining walnut mixture. (The assembly might rise above the rim of the 2-inch tall cake pan.)

9. Transfer cake to oven and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the baking dish very slightly and topping begins to caramelize, about 60-75 minutes. 10. Remove cake from oven, place a piece of parchment on top and press down lightly to compress the cake.

10. Remove cake from oven, place a piece of parchment on top and press down lightly to compress the cake. Leave parchment on for 5 minutes, then remove and set cake on cooling rack to cool completely, at least 3 hours, before cutting.

Recipe Notes:

1. If you practice a strict Kosher diet. omit butter and increase the canola oil to 2/3 cup.

2. Brandy can be substitute with kosher wine or orange juice.

3. Cake can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, as the flavor improves with age.


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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian @ A Thought For Food April 15, 2011 at 7:45 am

Oh my gosh, Ken! You had my dying of laughter from this post. That first paragraph alone. Too much.

And this is just the kind of wonderful cake that one can enjoy on Passover. You really don’t need much else when you combine apples, nuts, butter, and spices. Nope… don’t need much at all.

Lisa G April 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

What a delectable piece of writing this is! I can relate to it on so many levels. We have just finished a cookbook compiling extraordinary recipes from Sydney’s vibrant Jewish community and the one dish we purposefully left out was…MATZOH BALLS! It is impossible to choose which are the best, and even if you had the recipe, there is quite a skill involved in making them perfect. So we thought it was politically correct (and better for our personal safety!!) if we left them out altogether. We didn’t want to incur the wrath of a Balabusta!
This apple cake looks absolutely wonderful, I’ll definitely add it to my passover repertoire next week. And please, if you’re ever in Australia at Passover time, you are invited to our Seder!

foodwanderings April 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

Boy you know how to have us stand in attention! THat first paragraph hook was brilliant!! Such good writing! I woke up preoccupied and worrisome with a long mental list but this cracked me up! ROFL. Apple cake looks awesome!

SWEETSUGARBELLE April 15, 2011 at 8:32 am

This is a gorgeous dessert. Gorgeous and interesting! I grew up in a place without much of a Jewish population so I didn’t get much exposure until I got a little older and moved to Va. I just learned of Seder last year from a friend in New York and I read everything I could get my hands on to learn more.

Adryon April 15, 2011 at 10:22 am

This is just stunning. The layers of apples had me nearly licking my monitor. As always, the writing and photography are wonderful – I need this cake.

Margaret April 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

Your sense of humor really comes through in your writing. You are so talented as a baker, writer and photographer. A true triple threat! I thought about making my boss an apple pie for his birthday as it is his favorite. Since he observes Passover, this would be an excellent alternative.

christo/doggybloggy April 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm

everything is well done but the pie – it is cooked to perfection.

merry jennifer April 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

This is a gorgeous cake, Ken. Just gorgeous.

bunkycooks April 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm

This cake is spectacular. I am glad I don’t have to be Jewish to bake and eat this! 😉 Have a great weekend!

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) April 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm

This looks absolutely delicious! Full of apple-goodness :)

Laura April 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm

looks absolutely delish!

Maris (In Good Taste) April 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm

That is by far the nicest Passover cake i have ever seen.

Liren April 16, 2011 at 2:22 am

You are the funniest, Ken! But I have long shared that desire to be invited to a Seder – despite having grown up there and having many Jewish friends, I sadly have never attended a Seder meal. Sigh, maybe one day. Meantime, what a STUNNING cake, I’ll happily make this, Passover or not!

Jamie April 16, 2011 at 5:35 am

Ken, this is one hysterical post and I wish I had a seder to invite you to! You seem more excited about the holiday than my husband ever has! But the cake…the cake is absolutely fabulous and I want to rush into my kitchen to make one! I’d make something this chock full of apples and wonderful flavors all year round. Gorgeous!

Ling April 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

I went to my first seder last year with my half-Jewish friend’s family, and I had an excellent taste of homemade matzo ball soup and gefilte fish (ok , not as big a fan of the jarred fish). However, we didn’t have as delicious a dessert as this spiced apple cake sounds. Hope it was a hit!

Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

This is definitely one of the most delicious Passover desserts I have ever seen! I love all those layers of apples.

Knitstamatic April 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Perfect! Not only do we have a very abridged Seder, this year we’re having it early to accommodate out of town family…ha, in about an hour. Menu is done but I may just have to make this anyway and invite some people over for dessert later this week!

Lynda April 16, 2011 at 5:31 pm

What an absolutely gorgeous cake! Passover or no passover, I’ll be making this.

WineDineDivas April 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Thank you for this delicious recipe! Just beautiful all the neat layers of apples!

tinytearoom April 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm

its like an apple pie cake. I love the beautiful layers. It’s autumn here in Australia and we are seeing an abundance of varying varieties of apples at the fruit market. I’m bookmarking this recipe.

RJ Flamingo April 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Cracked me up! You’re so right on so many levels! In fact, I’m risking the wrath of many traditional cooks by preparing a post on matzo balls, this very minute. LOL! And had I known, you would most certainly have been invited to join me an my family. We traditionally end the Seder with the words “Next year, in Jerusalem!” So, next year in Miami? And you can bring that fabulous cake with you! xox

Lora @cakeduchess April 19, 2011 at 8:47 am

Lol! You are just too cute Ken! You can come down next year and we will celebrate at my brother’s house:) This cake looks delicious! I adore apple desserts and this is something I would devour;)

Dawn (KitchenTravels) April 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Gorgeous cake!

Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relish It April 19, 2011 at 10:21 pm

That cake looks so darn delicious! I need to make it asap! Thanks for sharing :)

Jeanne @ CookSister! April 21, 2011 at 9:37 am

Great post :) And isn’t it funny how people on the OUTSIDE of a culture or tradition looking in always seem more excited by the rituals of that culture/tradition than the people actually involved in it? Love the cake though – such comforting flavours and textures!

Cath January 26, 2012 at 5:11 am

I must try your recipe. It looks amazing ! :) A french fan

BHW March 31, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Love this post. Plan on making it for Passover this year.

Do you always drain the raisins? Wouldn’t it be good with the brandy in the batter?

Thanks for this beautiful recipe. It looks very moist (unlike most Passover desserts!)

hungryrabbit March 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Oh enjoy. If you add the brandy, it will get too watery and will result in a mushy batter.

HillyG April 4, 2012 at 3:46 am

Thank you for posting this – it looks delicious! If you ever visit Detroit during Passover, you always have a place at our table!

Rachel@FoodFix April 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I just found your blog from a “pin” of this recipe and I love your writing voice and love this recipe! I’m printing it out as we speak. I posted a Passover worthy chocolate coconut cake this week which I’m making for my husband who considers only chocolate as dessert-worthy, but fruit cakes/pies are more up my alley. Thanks…this looks amazing and I’m going to try it with almond flour and gluten-free matzohs ground into meal instead since I’m GI…looking forward to reading you regularly!

BHW April 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm


Just wanted to report back and tell you how much we enjoyed your apple cake for Passover. It was moist and full of flavor (unlike most Passover desserts!) The brandy was a nice touch.

It will be on our playlist for years to come. So if you ever make it to Richmond, VA, you are always more than welcome at our table (Passover or otherwise!) Cheers :-)

Beverley April 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

This is going to be a regular cake that I will be making year after year

thank you Ken

Beverley xoxo

RecipeNewZ June 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author’s site.

It’s called RecipeNewZ (with Z) –

I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

Suzanne October 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Amazing! Was going to make this today, but short a couple items. Also noticed, you mention eggs above, but they aren’t in your ingredients list. Can you tell us how many? THANKS!

Suzanne October 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

NEVERMIND! Found them in the list. lol TY!

Kate November 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Hi! I almost threw out my matzo cake meal and then remembered that I bought it because I made this recipe last year! This is such a wonderful recipe and was a great hit! I plan to make it again this year and will post a pic. to my blog and a link to you! Have a wonderful holiday season! -Kate Murray

hungryrabbit November 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hi Kate, it’s comments like yours that make blogging all worthwhile. I’m so glad you like the cake and will do a repeat this year. Have a wonderful holiday season. – Ken

Molly March 23, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Waiting for my cake to come out of the oven, when I realized that your recipie says granulated sugar, but the photos show brown sugar. No wonder mine isn’t carmelizing – I used granulated. :( Hope it still sets up and tastes ok. –M

hungryrabbit March 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Hi Molly, it is granulated sugar. The color you see in photo is from the cinnamon. Hope your cake turns out alright. -Ken

BHW April 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

Made your cake again this year for Passover and did a little tweaking. I didn’t have enough brandy to make 1/8 cup so I used Grand Marnier to make up the difference. Also poured the leftover Grand Marnier/brandy mixture into the batter and it made it super moist. Loved it…thanks for sharing :-)

Ilona April 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Used this recipe for the first time today. It’s in the oven right now. The picture made my mouth water so I had to give it a try. Taking it to my mom’s for Passover tonight. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks!!

plasterer bristol October 7, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Oh wow this sounds lovely. will have to give this a go. Thanks for sharing.


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