Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah

For honey cake haters.

apple walnut cake

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Growing up, I never liked the honey cakes that invariably turned up on Rosh Hashanah tables. Whether store bought or homemade, they always struck me as dry and a bit musty — like the cake equivalent of grandma’s floral curtains.

Luckily, my family’s dessert of choice for the Jewish New Year was almost always apple cake. The recipe my mother made favors a high ratio of fruit to batter, which results in an incredibly moist, crumby cake that is evenly studded with sweet bites of apple. And like many Jewish apple cakes, it relies on canola oil instead of butter, making it a suitable pareve (neither meat nor dairy) dessert for both meat and dairy meals. As an adult, I’ve thought more about the significance of eating apple cake on Rosh Hashanah. Both apples and honey represent sweetness for the New Year. But only apples, which reach their perfect ripeness in the early fall, capture that moment of seasonal flux — the tension between fertility and fragility that gives the holiday its emotional resonance.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

On Rosh Hashanah, every apple is special. Still, when it comes to baking, some work better than others. The two golden rules for baking with apples are: stick to in-season varieties and use an apple that is hearty enough to hold up against oven heat. “There’s nothing so disappointing as serving up a good-looking apple cake or tart, only to find that the apples are not juicy inside, or rock hard [or complete mush] after prolonged baking ” warns Marcy Goldman, author of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. Goldman wisely suggests consulting an apple chart (like this one), or visiting a nearby farmers’ market and experimenting until you find your perfect match.

Mom’s Apple Walnut Cake

This moist, hearty cake also works really well poured into muffin cups. If you prefer to serve it as a healthy breakfast or brunch cake instead of dessert, replace one cup of flour with whole wheat flour and fold 1/4 cup finely ground flax seeds into the batter along with the apples and walnuts.


  1. 3 cups Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chop
  2. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 cup canola oil
  5. 2 cups sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 3 cups flour
  10. 1 cup chopped walnuts
  11. Turbinado sugar (for sprinkling on top)


Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a second bowl, mix together sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and stir to combine. Pour wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in apples and walnuts (the batter will be thick).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans and spread half of the batter into each pan. Sprinkle the tops of each loaf with a little sugar and bake for approximately one hour, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

For Rosh Hashanah gifts to bring to friends, along with this apple cake, visit our online store.

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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