Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tonight. Many celebrants will eat Jewish Apple Cake, one of the traditional holiday desserts.
There’s a minor controversy about what constitutes Jewish Apple Cake. The Washington Post states, “It might be labeled Jewish because there is oil rather than butter or lard in the batter.” Wikipedia, our worldwide fortress of information, has a different view. “Jewish apple cake is a kind of dense cake made with apples and sold mostly in Pennsylvania in the United States.” Readers are then directed to Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.
Since there is no standard of identity for many products, including Jewish Apple Cake, I feel that I’m allowed to call my recipe Jewish Apple Cake because my mother was Jewish. Bless her soul.
Several years ago when I worked as a pastry chef for an upscale residence hotel chain, I used many of my own recipes:
I sometimes made my mom’s apple cake for dessert. There were many Jewish residents at the hotel, so I wanted to call it Jewish Apple Cake. Chef Nico refused to do it and looked at me with suspicion.
“There’s no such thing as Jewish Apple Cake,” he insisted. “As an executive chef I am very familiar with Jewish foods and dietary laws.”
So on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, his dinner menu posted in the lobby listed split pea and ham soup with Apple Cake for dessert. I saw the menu when I arrived at work. I could have told Chef that ham for a festive Jewish holiday meal was not the best choice, but I didn’t say anything.
When the residents saw the printed menu, they stormed the office. Chef added Carrot & Apple Tzimmes as the vegetable, saved the soup for another day, and changed the dessert name by adding “Jewish.” Chef ate three pieces of that cake even though he was on a diet.
From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 99
Home-Based Baking at its Best!