Make this recipe for Teddie's Apple Cake to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Here is hoping your new year will be sweet. Rosh Hashanah 2020 begins in the evening of Friday, September 18th and ends in the evening of September 20th. Happy New Year, y'all! Make it really sweet, by voting in the upcoming election. Let's take back our democracy.Jump to Recipe
When I think of this recipe for Teddie’s Apple Cake I always wonder about who this Teddie actually is, and why this cake was named for him. For some reason I think Teddie was a small boy when his mom named this cake for him. It was probably just some ordinary apple cake recipe, handed down from generation to generation. When Teddie’s mom hand-wrote the recipe on a file card for her recipe box, she took the liberty of renaming it after her son. It was probably on a lazy last day of summer, first day of fall afternoon. After he ate a slice of the freshly baked cake, Teddie told his mom that it was the best, and asked if he could he have more after dinner.
Most often honey cakes are associated with the Jewish New Year, along with the idea of honoring the sweetness of the holiday. Many apple cakes are baked for Rosh Hashanah, as well. The apples in such cakes serve as symbols of regeneration. A fitting symbol as the holiday commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of a ten day period of introspection and repentance culminating in Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Of course if you are more of a pie than cake person, try Cooking the Kitchen's Brown Sugar and Spice Apple Pie.
Teddie’s Apple Cake is said to be the best. This recipe was originally published in The New York Times in 1973 in an article by Jean Hewitt. Hewitt's credentials include many published cookbooks including The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (1971). Amanda Hesser, revisited this recipe in an article featured in The Times in 2007. Food52's co-founder also included it in 2012, as one of the Genius Recipes on 52's website. The recipe been reprinted on other well known food web sites, including the reknowned Epicurious.
Attestations may be found in many of the 371 letters to the editors of The Times in response to this republished recipe. Take this one for example, by someone called Robert: “I am SO OLD. I have this recipe snipped from the original 1973 NYTimes pasted onto a recipe card! Bar none - the BEST apple cake you’ll ever make!” Just one testament as to how this recipe was saved and cherished and handed down through generations. You do not have that kind of staying power if you are not the best.
Interestingly enough, Teddie’s Apple Cake was my son Josh’s favorite as well. I own a two family house in Brooklyn, NY, in which I live on the garden and parlor floors. My son and daughter-in-law lived in the top floor rental, until covid hit and they moved to big sky country in Missoula, Montana. Because of the impact of the pandemic upon their lives, it was time to make a change. If not now, when? In the spirit of our immigrant ancestors, they ventured to a far away place to try something new.
While still living in Brooklyn, Josh and Elena would often extend an off the cuff invitation to me, when having friends or family over for a visit and a meal. It was during one such accepted invitation that I first made the acquaintance of Teddie’s Apple Cake.
That particular meal began with a cheese-board appetizer prepared by my daughter-in-law. Early in her career, she had worked for years as a cheesemonger. Later, for awhile, she would host the podcast, Cutting the Curd. You will find that if you ever invite Elena to a get-together involving sharing a meal, she will most often bring a flight of cheeses, along with a pairing of hard cider or wine. While all enjoy the cheeses with artisanal crackers, and perhaps some quince paste or honey, Elena will tell you all about their origins and flavors.
My son, a chef by trade, then served a main of hand made pasta with a home made sauce. Bolognese sauce is one of his specialties. His pasta making was honed during his stint in culinary school, when he was placed to work in a restaurant in Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy that reaches from the Apennine Mountains to the Po River in the North. The toothsome cappelletti was followed by a bit of a break from food, during which there continued to be much conversation. Then it was time for dessert.
Baking is not my son’s forte. He thinks the art of baking is too scientific, demanding exact measurements. His style of cooking is more spontaneous than a tome of exacting formulas. He rarely cooks from recipes. More often, he studies many recipes along the way. Then takes everything he has gleaned, and engages with what I can only describe as freestyle cooking. He has made fun of me in the past for being so wedded to following recipes as they are written, down to my counting out the exact number of peppercorns into a pot of soup.
When it was time for cake, Josh, happy to the point of almost bouncing on the balls of his feet, announced to his guests, “This is my favorite dessert to make for company.” If you knew him, you would know this is quite an endorsement. Josh is not, and never was, a cake eater. Not to say that he does not not enjoy some other desserts. When it comes to dark chocolate, he is all in. But he could always say no to a piece of cake. Turns out that Teddie’s Apple Cake is his go to dessert for company. Unless he is totally punting the last course with something simpler like store bought ice-cream. He has also been known to serve the perfect piece of fruit, purchased at the farmers' market, à la Alice Waters and Chez Panisse.
As a host at a meal, Josh was never one to assume that you wanted anything of any particular course. He was very specific in his service and would always ask if you wanted some, and if so, how much. That is, unless the meal was served family style with an array of bowls and platters set out on the table. Therein everyone just passed food around and helped themselves. In this case of Teddie’s Apple Cake, I was asked and I gladly accepted. I soon asked for a second helping. I agreed. Teddie’s Apple Cake was the best.
When I was living in the middle of the first few months of covid lockdown, I started sourcing all of the food that came into my house. Fresh Direct deliveries became impossible in New York, because one could not get a reservation online. I wound up signing up for a farm share that would deliver to my house once a week.
If you recall, spring of 2020 was sluggish and late. The vegetables and fruit delivered to me from People’s Farm seemed like leftovers and rejects from late winter. The boxed food deliveries were a highlight of my week. I looked forward to receiving each box with such hope. But, week after week, the only fruit I received were apples. About fifteen apples were delivered to me in box after box. They piled up in the fruit bin of my refrigerator, and started to invade the vegetable bin as well. There was just not enough room to store all of those apples. My first response was to make baked apples grouped four at a time in a vessel usually reserved for casseroles at Thanksgiving. Baked apples were endlessly served for dessert every day while enduring the remainder of my subscription to this CSA. Every fifth day, another batch went into the oven. Every so often I would do the math to figure out when my stock of apples would dwindle to zero.
During that same period of time, I discovered that the NYC Metropolitan Opera was offering free streaming of operas, normally available for the price of a subscription. I had been to a few operas as a child, as my Aunt Gert and Uncle Julie and a few other couples shared a box at the Met. The husbands in their group consisted mostly of doctors, lawyers, and dentists. Most often, because business called and tied up their time, some one or other could not attend. My Aunt would volunteer me to fill the seat, and I would be invited to an evening at the opera. I was more fascinated with the chandeliers that resembled diamonds, that would ascend to the ceiling to signal the show was about to begin. The opera I remember most, was Carmen, with its gypsies in colorful costumes, and the dancing that accompanied the singing. But opera never really took for me. I left it behind and never looked back. In the future, the music of the late sixties and seventies beckoned, and was the music that would be most important to my own life.
When Josh and Elena married, as most often happens, their marriage as a couple became a marriage of two families, and I became friends with Josh’s in-laws. Carolyn and Peter were big opera buffs. In fact, in his youth Peter aspired to becoming an opera singer. Like Gert and Julie, the Santogades had yearly subscriptions to the Met. They knew the operas in all iterations of their stagings, backwards and forwards.
In this time of covid and given the opportunity of free streaming, I decided it was time to educate myself. I had always heard of such operas as The Ring Cycle. which seems to have a cultish following. Another I could recall was about the merry Barber of Seville. It was time to watch, learn, and see what I thought of this art form.
I started a habit of watching an opera a night. It was like running a marathon. l would read the synopsis of each complicated plot, each convoluted never ending story. I paid attention and read the subtitles as each opera was performed. Otherwise I would be hopelessly lost. I engaged in magical thinking about all of this. I believed that if I dutifully watched one opera everyday, like swallowing a teaspoon of bitter medicine, the covid virus would soon be gone, the pandemic ended, and I would be free.
One night while watching an opera, I decided to bake Teddie’s Apple Cake, because it called for three cups of sliced apples and would hopefully make a dent in my bank vault of apples in the fridge. I set up my computer on the kitchen table, as it played La Boheme in the background. If I moved to use counter space by the cuisinart which I used to mix the dry ingredients, the computer would sit atop a cutting board atop a toaster oven in that area, so I could keep a pace with the subtitles.
It turns out that making the recipe for Teddie’s Apple Cake is work-intensive. This was no easy peasy recipe. There is all that chopping of apples to be done. I put the apple slices in a cold water bath laden with lemon juice so the apples would not turn brown before I was ready to mix them into the batter.
All this while, I had totally forgotten that the cake I was attempting to make was Josh’s favorite. More importantly, in the moment, I forgot something else. Between preparing the cake batter and watching the opera, I forgot to include the three eggs listed in the ingredients. Somehow my eyes totally skipped over that part, even though a small voice in my head was saying, “Shouldn’t there be some eggs to bind this all together?” And, “why is this batter so thick?”
When my version of Tedde’s Apple Cake came out of the oven, and subsequently out of the tube pan, it pretty much fell apart. Surgery had to be performed to push the pieces back together and make it somewhat presentable. I texted a photo to my opera-loving Santogades who kiddingly scolded me for baking and watching opera at the same time. Then I texted a photo to Josh, who reminded me that he had served me a slice of Teddie’s a while ago, and that it was his favorite cake. Perhaps I should rename mine, Josh’s Apple Cake.
Despite the missing eggs, Teddie still delivered. I ate a slice that was still warm from baking in the oven, right away. Then once cooled, I froze slices of the rest to reheat and serve as comfort in the further days to come of the covid lockdown.
P.S. All photos here are from a later baking that included all of the eggs:)
Teddie's Apple Cake
Perhaps, bake this sweet apple cake, representing regeneration, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Or, maybe as a cake in celebration of the fall apple season to be eaten on a lazy afternoon, just because.
- butter for greasing pan
- 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups peeled, cored and thickly sliced tart apples, like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith. Keep slices in bath of cold water and lemon juice until ready to mix into batter.
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup raisins
- vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.
Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined. Batter will be quite thick, and you may need to add these last ingredients by hand.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired.