When it was given to me, this recipe originally specified flour, not matzo cake meal. I didn’t think it was very good, but I made it a few times anyway, as my family and friends liked it. Obsessing over how to improve the recipe to make it more to my own liking, it dawned on me that someone had converted a perfectly good Passover cake into an everyday cake and that if I converted it back it would be much better. I love it now, and everyone I have served it to raves about it. One day I didn’t have quite enough ground cinnamon, however, and I blended together a substitute with the teaspoon of cinnamon I had, plus ground nutmeg, mace, and ginger to fill out the tablespoon measure. That was yet another improvement.
Makes one 8-inch-square cake
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon or a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and ginger
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup matzo cake meal
5 medium apples, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups), preferably Golden Delicious, Crispin (Mutzu), or other apples that keep their shape when cooked 1/3 cup raisins (optional)
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil an 8-inch-square glass baking dish.
To prepare the topping, mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.
To prepare the cake batter, in a bowl, with a hand-held electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until well mixed. Beat in the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until the mixture is thick and foamy. Beat in the oil, adding it in a steady stream. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the spatula, stir in the matzo cake meal, blending well.
Pour half of the batter mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle about half the topping mixture evenly over the batter. Top with half the apples and all the raisins. Scrape the remaining half of the batter over the apples, spreading it out to cover the apples. Arrange the remaining apples on top of the batter. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining topping mixture.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the sides of the cake pull away very slightly from the baking dish and the topping has begun to caramelize. (A cake tester is not reliable. It will not come out clean due to the moist richness of this cake.) Let sit in the baking dish for several hours until completely cool before cutting into serving portions. This cake is yet another Yiddish food that improves with age. Keep the cake in its dish, covered tightly with plastic, and the next day the topping will have become a moist, candy-like coating.
Reprinted with permission from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited, by Arthur Schwartz, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.