Apple Cake

By: Carolyn Wyman, Relish contributor

Browse the bakery cases of coffeehouses in Greater Philadelphia and you’ll find an apple Bundt cake known as Philadelphia-Style Apple Cake or Jewish Apple Cake. This large, moist and hearty coffee cake is laced with cinnamon and layered with sliced apples.

The Philadelphia area has the fourth-largest Jewish population in America. Jewish Cooking in America author and PBS-TV series host Joan Nathan says Philadelphia-Style Apple Cake “is an American variation on a traditional Eastern European recipe for what was in those days a very fancy cake served to visitors on the holidays.” The cake is often served at gatherings during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (beginning, this year, at sundown on October 2), when eating sweet foods is believed to ensure a sweet year.

Almost all the recipes for the cake use vegetable oil instead of butter, and orange juice in place of milk, to meet kosher laws saying that dairy cannot be eaten at the same meal as meat.

This recipe serves a crowd, but don’t worry if you don’t have one: The way the apple and cinnamon flavors infuse the cake makes it even better the second day. The cake also freezes well.

    Philadelphia-Style Apple Cake

Be sure to grease the Bundt pan really well with vegetable shortening. Cooking spray may not be enough to keep the cake from sticking


6         cups peeled and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples 
(about 3 large)

1 1/2    cups, plus 5 tablespoons, granulated sugar, divided

4          tsp ground cinnamon

3          cups all-purpose flour

1          Tbsp baking powder

1/2       tsp salt

4          eggs

1/2       cup light brown sugar

1          cup vegetable oil

1/2       cup orange juice

2 1/2    tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease, sugar and flour a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan.
  2. Combine apple slices with 5 tablespoons granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Beat eggs with remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vegetable oil, orange juice and vanilla; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture and mix until well blended (about 1 minute).
  5. Pour one third of the batter into the pan. Top with half the apple slices, draining off any liquid. Pour in half the remaining batter and top with remaining apple slices. Top with remaining batter, making sure the apples are covered.
  6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until the top turns golden brown and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Serves 16.

Recipe by Carolyn Wyman

Photo by Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn