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, 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.
—By Carolyn Wyman