Passover apple cake. A classic from the astoundingly awesome cookbook author, Arthur Schwartz. Kosher for Passover yet still tastes like any traditional apple cake. Talk about a godsend.
This Passover apple cake from renowned cookbook author Arthur Schwartz has magical properties. You see, whatever leftovers you can’t polish off the first day and carefully stash for tomorrow will have morphed from a sugary topping into an indulgently gooey, caramel-like topping. This may be the first time that we’re actively excited not to eat a whole, freshly-baked cake in one sitting. Cake that not only improves but evolves? That’s the kind of magic we like. So enticing we find ourselves making it all year long and not just at Passover. Talk about a godsend.–Renee Schettler
*Can I Make My Own Matzo Flour?
Can you substitute matzo meal that you finely grind in a blender and then put through a fine sieve? One of our readers shared with us that unless you have an industrial strength food processor, regular matzo meal is not easily converted into real matzo flour as it can cause even a strong processor to almost overheat. But if you have a super-powered one, feel free to try it if you have matzos but no matzo flour available to you.
Passover Apple Cake
For the topping
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon or a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and ginger
For the cake
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil or mild olive oil
- 3/4 cup matzo cake meal*
- 5 cups (24 to 34 oz) apples, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick (6-mm) slices, preferably Golden Delicious or Crispin (Mutzu) (3 to 5 apples)
- 1/3 cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and lightly oil an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
- In a small bowl, mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.
- In a large bowl with a stand mixer or handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs until well combined. Beat in the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing 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. The mixture will be VERY thick.
- Spread half the cake mixture in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle about half the topping mixture evenly over the batter. Arrange half the apples on the batter, making layers if you need. Sprinkle with the raisins. Scrape the remaining batter over the apples, spreading it out to cover the apples. Arrange the remaining apples on the batter and 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 the cake cool in the baking dish for several hours until room temperature before cutting it 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Passover recipes should probably have their own rating system as they can’t truly be judged against your year round recipes. This Passover apple cake is almost quite as good as any apple cake that I’ve made. Its ease of preparation plus delicious results give it reason to be a testers choice!
I used yellow delicious apples and they held their shape nicely. The thoroughly beaten eggs become a good leavening agent as we can’t use any commercial ones during Passover. This would be a lovely dessert for the seder meal. Additionally, it improved overnight so it could be made in advance and will continue to be a perfect dessert throughout the holiday week.
The timing was accurate and the resulting cake was moist and the apples tender. The topping becomes chewy and candy-like as promised. I used only cinnamon as I am not a fan of the other spices but I imagine that they would work well if you like them.
This simple Passover apple cake isn’t just tasty but fun to make as well. I used a combination of mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. You could just as easily use a premixed apple pie spice mix or cinnamon alone. I chose to use a mixture of Granny Smith and Fuji apples as this is what I had on hand. You could use almost any apple with a little flavor. I found that the raisins added another layer of texture and flavor. I opted for pecans as opposed to walnuts simply because they are so darned delicious.
A couple of recommendations. First, you may find it difficult to find matzo cake meal. Fear not! Matzo meal is nothing more than pulverized matzo crackers and matzo cake meal is just finely ground matzo crackers. I pulverized mine in my food processor and then put them through a sifter. The result was a very fine flour-like substance. Next, I mixed my spices, nuts, and sugar in a resealable plastic sandwich bag (it’s easier and cleaner than using a bowl). Finally, and maybe most importantly, you should mix your eggs and sugar for nearly 5 minutes. Mixing it until thickened and foamy may be a little subjective. You may certainly use a hand mixer but if you have a stand mixer, by all means, use it. After the mixing is complete, folded in the matzo cake meal completely with a rubber spatula.
I covered my apple cake with plastic wrap after it had thoroughly cooled and refrigerated the cake for several hours. This turned out to be one fine coffee cake!
This Passover apple cake was a home run—tender cake with tons of apples and cinnamon sugar running through it all. The cake went together quickly and easily—the “hardest” part was peeling and slicing the apples. The first day the cake was all about the cinnamon sugar. The second day the apples had shared their moisture with the rest of the cake, making the topping a little gooey and melding together the flavors of the eggy cake, sweet apples, and spicy cinnamon sugar. This is definitely a recipe you want to make the day before you want to eat it.
I couldn’t find matzo cake meal, so I bought matzo meal and ground it to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. A friend who is familiar with Passover baking told me the only difference was the texture of the meal. It worked beautifully—the cake was tender and finely textured. I used pecans and Pink Lady apples. Next time I will add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of vanilla (or more) to the cake. It tasted a bit bland to me, despite the large amount of cinnamon.
We ate some of the cake when it had cooled to room temperature. We ate more the next day, after it had time to age. It was definitely better the second day. The cake was a good keeper—we ate the last piece the fifth day after baking and it was still as moist and delicious as it had been on the second day.
This Passover apple cake recipe is a true sleeper hit. While I’ve eaten matzo crackers and used matzo meal to make matzo balls, I’ve never baked with it. When I tasted the cake batter, I was concerned that this cake wouldn’t turn out. The batter tasted very strongly like the crackers, even with the inclusion of the other ingredients. Matzo has a very distinctive flavor. But I saw this recipe through to the end and I am so glad that I did. With the inclusion of crisp, tart apples and the sugar, nut, and spice topping, this cake had a great texture and tasted delicious.
My husband couldn’t identify the matzo flavor at all. Baking this cake in a glass pan ensured that the edges as well as the top became nice and golden brown and achieved caramelization from the spiced sugar melting. I found that the cake tasted best when cooled to room temperature. I substituted pumpkin pie spice—a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace and cloves—for the straight cinnamon and I could distinctly taste the various spices. I saved a couple of pieces of cake to try the next day and it was still very moist. Some of the spiced sugar mixture remained granular after baking. By the next day, though, it had melted into the apples on top of the cake, giving it a spiced caramel apple-like flavor.
One important discovery that I made with this recipe is that matzo meal can be substituted for matzo flour meal when it’s ground even finer in a food processor or blender. I couldn’t find the matzo cake meal in any nearby grocery stores. Since they are the same product—the cake meal is just a finer grind—I used matzo meal processed in a food processor.
This Passover apple cake was super easy to make and although there seems to be a lot of sugar it’s loaded with apples, which provides all the balance you need. Using the matzo cake meal as the cake’s base also adds a nice earthiness that keeps the sweetness in check. The cake batter is very thick and that made it tricky spreading the second layer over the apples but persistence and patience pays off.
The biggest problem with this dish, if you follow the recipe all the way through to the end, is that you have to wait to eat it. The kitchen—the whole house, really—smelled of luscious apple, walnut, and cinnamon, but we had to live off of that for a day to let the cake’s flavors fully come together. All’s well that ends well, of course, and it was worth the wait.
A day later, the top was moist and candy-like. The one trick was that it seemed the middle layer of topping melted to the bottom of the pan and so it was a little tricky getting the pieces out. Next time I might line the pan with parchment paper. Of course the good side of all that sugar and spice drifting down to the bottom of the pan was sugary, crispy bites that added a nice touch.
I’ve eaten and prepared my fair share of Passover sweets and this Passover apple cake is a nice little treat that coaxes quite a bit of flavor out of matzo meal—no small feat. With this apple cake, you can put away those ubiquitous macaroons and swap out the flourless chocolate cake for an evening! It features simple ingredients and, save for the peeling, coring, and slicing of the apples, it’s quick to put together.
The texture is very appealing—its custardy interior is studded with sweet, tender apples and juicy raisins, while the caramelized edges and its exterior offers a nice textural contrast. I preferred a blend of spices for the topping, but that’s a matter of personal preference. I used 2 tsp (4 g) cinnamon, 3/4 tsp (2 g) mace, and 1/4 tsp (1 g). I also added about a teaspoon and a half of lemon zest to the batter, because I find it brings out the flavor of the apples.
Some suggested adjustments I have include adding more nuts (you could up to at least 3/4 cup so they aren’t so sparse) and raisins (I’d go up to ½ cup). I’d also reduce the sugar in the topping to 1/2 cup as with the full amount it’s more than sweet enough. It would also be nice to add either vanilla or some brandy to the batter. I used 3 1/2 large golden delicious apples (each approximately 8 to 8 1/4 ounces, because that was equivalent to 5 packed cups.
I used a 9-inch springform pan which worked perfectly. It made for a more attractive presentation, too. I whipped the eggs using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed for 2 minutes to get the eggs light and frothy. It then took me about 4 minutes to gradually add the sugar. By this time, the batter was light cream colored and satiny looking. After adding the oil, I whipped it for 1 to 2 minutes—the batter looked like chiffon batter.
I ended up putting it in the refrigerator for about 5 hours and eating it later that night after reheating it. The cake does hold very well in the refrigerator and the top and the sides did get caramely and moist. With a little nudge from a knife here and there to release a caramelized gooey apple or two from the sides, the cake released nicely.
Matzo cake meal—who knew? We were thoroughly impressed by this very moist cake. I used Pink Lady apples, my current favorite for cakes and pies. They have just the right level of tartness and become tender but not mushy when cooked. For the spices, I used 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and ginger. I will use the same combination for the topping next time but with just 1/2 cup sugar. I didn’t think the cake was overly sweet, but I prefer to have more apple flavor come through.
Do take your time to incorporate the matzo cake meal into the egg and sugar mixture; just when I thought everything was blended well, I turned my rubber spatula to find a long streak of dry cake meal. I used my ceramic 8-inch square baking pan greased with coconut oil and my Passover apple cake was baked perfectly in 1 hour and 15 minutes, as the recipe says.
Most of the sugar on top of the cake was still dry and granular when it came out of the oven but after several hours it had started to look moist and shiny and the following day it all was dark brown and gooey. Yes, this cake does age well—the flavor and texture became more and more cohesive as it sat at room temperature for 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.
Originally published March 29, 2010