Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is almost upon us, so it’s time for another knockout dessert to ring in the new year. Last year we featured an ultra-moist Honey Bundt Cake, which is often served during the holiday to symbolize the wish for a sweet and happy year.
This year we’ll be focusing on another traditional Rosh Hoshanah favorite: apples. I have a delicious Apple Crumb Cake recipe to share with you that is perfect as part of an indulgent brunch or as a lighter dessert option. Sliced apples and a walnut-cinnamon crumble are baked into the middle of a spice cake, and it is topped with a nutty, flavorful crumb topping.
I won’t sugarcoat it: this cake takes a little bit of time, and not one but two kitchen appliances: a blender and a food processor. But I think the extra effort, the time and love and attention required, makes this a dessert worthy of a special occasion like Rosh Hashanah.
Apple Crumb Cake
For the crumb topping:
- 1.5 cups walnuts, toasted
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 TBSP granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP flour
- 2 oz (4 TBSP) butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 medium apple
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup apple sauce, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 6 oz (12 TBSP) unsalted butter at room temperature
- Food processor
- 9″ springform pan
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). The first thing to do is make the walnut-cinnamon crumble. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, the brown sugar, the granulated sugar, and the cinnamon. Pulse the mixture in several long bursts until the walnuts are finely chopped and it looks like coarse sand.
Remove 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture, and set it aside in a small bowl for now. This is the crumble that’s going to go in the middle of the cake.
To the remaining crumbs in the food processor, add the flour, the melted butter, and the vanilla extract. Pulse until all the ingredients are blended and moistened.
Stop blending when you see the crumbs start to hold together. We don’t want big thick clumps, we want smaller clumps and a looser crumb. Transfer the crumble to a medium bowl and refrigerate it while you prepare the rest of the cake.
Peel and core the apple, then slice it into thin wedges less than 1/4-inch thick. Place the wedges in a bowl, and toss them with the lemon juice so they don’t get discolored.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract, until everything is well-blended.
Finally, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Turn the mixer to low and mix all the dry ingredients together until they are well-blended. This helps to distribute the ingredients and also to sift the flour so that there are no lumps in the cake.
Add the softened butter and the applesauce to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat everything together on low until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Then turn the speed up to medium and beat for another 1-1/2 minutes, to really aerate the cake and develop the structure. When you’re done, the mixture should look like the picture above. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl very well, making sure everything is mixed.
Turn the mixer to medium-low speed. Add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for at least 30 seconds after each addition, waiting until the eggs are completely incorporated before adding another batch. Mix for a final 30 seconds, until the cake batter is silky-smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl once more, to make sure there are no dry patches or lumpy spots.
Spray a 9″ springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour about 2/3 of the cake batter into the pan, and spread it into an even layer with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Remember that bowl of crumbs you reserved from the first step, before you added the butter and flour to the food processor? That’s the bowl you want to use now. Sprinkle the dry crumbs all over the top of the cake in the pan, making sure to get them in an even layer.
Take your apple slices and layer them over the top of the crumbs, overlapping them slightly so that they’re in one thin layer covering the entire surface of the cake.
Now pour the rest of the cake batter on top, and smooth it into an even layer over the apple slices. It will be thin in spots, but don’t worry, the cake will puff up as it bakes. Once you’re done spreading the batter, place the cake in the preheated oven and bake it for 35 minutes. This is a “partial bake” that will give the cake time to develop its structure without being weighed down by the final layer of crumbs we’re going to add on top.
After 35 minutes, take the partially baked cake out of the oven. Take your final bowl of crumbs, the one with the butter and flour added, from the refrigerator and sprinkle them all over the top of the cake. If you have some large crumbs, you can leave them for variety, or you can crumble them in your hands, depending on your preference.
Continue to bake the cake for another 20-30 minutes. I recommend checking it after 20 minutes, and if it is not yet done, checking it every 5 minutes until it is. When it’s finished, a toothpick inserted in the center will emerge with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Let the cake cool completely at room temperature. Once cool, run a knife along the sides of the pan, then unlatch the sides of the springform and remove the sides.
Remember how I said up above that this would be a great brunch treat? Well, that is true. It has the lightness and flavor of a great coffee cake, and it goes perfectly with a morning cup of tea or coffee. However, I admit that my favorite way to eat it is with a big spoonful of whipped cream on top, which I think pushes it into the “evening dessert” category.
However you choose to enjoy it, I’m sure this Apple Crumb Cake, with its layer of moist apples and generous bounty of cinnamon-walnut crumble, will be the perfect way to welcome in the new year. Have a sweet and happy Rosh Hashanah!
All text and images (c) Elizabeth LaBau