My Apple Cake

"Sustain me with raisin-cakes, comfort* me with apples; For I am sick with love."

*to spread (a bed); to refresh, to make (a bed.)

-Song of Solomon, 2:5

I'm getting close to being done with my New Year's list. Just three more items after this one. I'm wondering why I didn't start here, with apples.

Coming back to my hometown this year has been a show of constants and unknowns. The sound of the early morning train used to be a lullaby to me. It was a reminder to make the best of those last few hours of sleep before I had to crawl out of the warm sheets to go to school. Even in recent years when I'd visit and stay in my old bed, the sound would still soothe me to sleep. Now the train noise seems relentless. I'm struggling to accept that things change and people change them for you--even little things like how I hear trains. The long freighters that pass slowly in the night rattle in my bones; the 5AM train seems so loud that it raises the hair on my arms. It's also in that gray early morning light that the tiny fracture in my heart starts acting up and pulling me out of my dreams into the day, to lie with a pillow over my head, contemplating the loss of my goldfish and remembering the summer I returned from a trip to find a shriveled tomato plant that a friend neglected to water in my absence. But eventually, as always, the sun rises, and eventually the haze burns off, and the radio station still plays Bollywood songs on Wednesday mornings.
Nothing is particularly unique about this apple cake except that I make it every year. I'm not even sure where the recipe came from--I've had it written in bubbly girl-handwriting in a recipe box I made in 5th grade, along with all the other sweet things my friends and I used to bake during sleep-overs. I've been upping the spices for probably 15 years or so, but besides that, the cake has stayed the same.
There's a comfort in making something very familiar--the feeling of winding the peeler around each apple to try to get one long spiral of green skin, the crunch of plunging down the corer, and the sweet, spicy smell of baking autumn--like recreating an edible chunk of a less-complicated time (when I slept better.)
I've found a few explanations of why apples are the iconic fruits eaten on Rosh Hashanah. In Genesis, a blind Isaac remarks that his son, Jacob, gives off the fragrance of a blessed field of apples (Eden). Isaac then gives Jacob a blessing (lengthy explanation is found here.) I guess we're supposed to hope that we, too, will be given a blessing of Eden this year. Mostly, I love the idea that a person could give off the scent of apples. Of course they are also sweet, and are a marker that fall has arrived.

Arielle's Apple Cake

  • 4 C tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C oil
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 generous tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp each: clove, nutmeg, allspice
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
Don't use a mixer--this is a wooden spoon cake. Mix apple slices and sugar, until apples are coated. Add oil, eggs, vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the dries to the wets and mix just until combined. Turn into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, for about an hour.

I make an icing with powdered sugar, a shake of spice (optional), a drop of lemon juice, and a few spoons of milk.