This apple pie, which is half-cake-half-pie, is the cake that started it all. This is the first family recipe I learned to make, the first Jewish recipe I published, the first time I felt that my recipe really represented who I am.
In my first book I published a recipe for a prune dessert based on this cake, but after diving into the family recipe notebooks and hearing the story behind it, I decided that Grandma’s original version deserved to take center stage. My family fled Europe during World War II and settled in Havana, Cuba, where a Jewish community of European refugees formed. They lived next door, celebrated holidays together and of course exchanged recipes. There my great-grandmother, whom everyone called “Nanny”, got the recipe for the apple pie from one of her neighbors in the community. Shortly before Castro came to power, when my family realized that it was worth moving from Cuba to the United States, the cake traveled with them.
The magic of this cake lies in its simplicity – a buttery, easy-to-prepare crust, a gently spiced apple filling and a topping of golden dough crumbles. And the best thing about it – it is very tolerant of changes and improvisations, and you can play with the fruits, toppings, and spices. See some of my favorites in the notes.
In the unlikely event that you have cake left over, know that it is a great cake to freeze; my mother- who like a good Jewish mother does not throw away leftovers but freezes them religiously- recommends wrapping the cake in plastic wrap before freezing.
Ingredients for Apple Cake
For the Dough:
- 2 cups less one tablespoon(270 grams) flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) Sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 8 oz (225 grams) butter cold, cut into cubes
- 1 egg beaten
For the Filling:
- 900 grams apples Pink Lady or Honey Crisp, if you can get them, peeled, cored and cut into 2-3 cm cubes (weight before peeling and coring)
- 1/4 cup walnuts chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) flour
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar light
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons ginger fresh, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Prepare the Dough:
1. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees (190C) and get a 9" (22-24 cm) pie pan or a springform pan.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a food processor. Add butter and process until you get pea-sized dough crumbs. Add the egg and continue to process until you get a uniform dough.
3. Transfer 2/3 of the dough to the pan and press it to the bottom and edges of the pan with your fingers, to create a crust of uniform thickness. No need to refrigerate while preparing the filling
Prepare the Filling and Bake:
4. Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl.
5. Place the stuffing on the dough and spread to an even layer.
6. Pinch off small pieces of the remaining dough and arrange them over the filling.
7. Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the filling is bubbling; if you used softer fruit, like plums, it is better to place the cake on a baking sheet before baking. Cool completely before cutting the cake.
Additions and changes:
- You can replace the apples with an equal amount of other fruit such as plums, pears or figs.
- You can replace the walnuts with other varieties of nuts.
- You can add spices such as cardamom, cloves, anise or any other favorite spices to the stuffing – just stay within that similar family.
Combinations that Jake especially likes:
- Plums and pistachios.
- Apples and hazelnuts.
- Pears, almonds and small pieces of marzipan.
For a gluten-free version: replace the all-purpose flour in the dough with gluten-free flour and the flour in the filling with 2 tablespoons of cornflour.