Chosen Eats: A Good Apple (Cake)
My parents always taught me that a good houseguest brings a gift for her host as a thank you for opening their home. And as an Internet houseguest of yours with this, my inaugural post as JewishBoston.com’s food blogger, I feel like I should thank you for inviting me into your home. So, behold: My mom’s coveted recipe for her apple chocolate chip cake.
My mom makes this dessert often because it’s so good. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (team savory all the way!), but I’ll house a whole apple cake if left unmonitored. Childhood friends still request it. Neighbors still drop by in hopes that there will be a couple aluminum foil-wrapped slices sitting on my parents’ counter.
You’re not the first group of people to enjoy this recipe, but you are some of the first to get the written instructions. When a college buddy asked all the attendees at her bridal shower to share a recipe of their choosing, my invitation came with an asterisk and specific directions: “Mari, your mom’s apple chocolate chip cake recipe, please.” And you’re lucky that she agreed—it made it a little bit easier to convince her to let me put this Levine family gem online.
It was this recipe that helped my mom regain her confidence in the kitchen after I graduated from culinary school a few years ago. She’d managed to feed a family of five every single night while I was growing up, yet now she was so self-conscious around a trained “chef” (her word—I’d consider myself an “informed food preparer”) that she was second-guessing her ability to cook things she’d spent years preparing—except for one notable exception.
I’m not exactly sure why this specific recipe is such a consistent crowd-pleaser. A quick online search for similarly titled quickbreads gives you thousands of hits. Pairing the cake’s two main ingredients—apples and chocolate—isn’t unusual. And my mom’s been known to make last-minute substitutions that somehow never negatively affect the outcome. Don’t have the required cup of vegetable oil? Just use what you have and think positively. Only have Granny Smith apples instead of the recommended McIntosh? No problem—dice ‘em up and cross your fingers. I’ve seen my mom make these modifications and still manage to pull a perfectly tender, fruity, sweet cake from the oven. It makes me think she has a closet full of them somewhere.
In culinary school, we were taught restraint—when to stop seasoning, when to pull something out of the oven. Not everything needs extra flair or an exotic ingredient. Sometimes tradition, comfort, and years’ worth of experience are just as important—and in this case, the basis for a well-loved and reliable recipe. It’s been a staple in my family’s home; I hope it becomes one in yours, too.
Gale Levine’s Apple Chocolate Chip Cake
1 cup canola oil
1½ cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 medium McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely into 1-inch pieces
½ cup semisweet or milk chocolate chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray tube pan with baking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, and sugar until smooth. Stir in flour and baking soda until combined, then fold in apples. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Bake on middle rack until top of cake starts to turn golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. To remove from pan, run knife between pan and cake, and invert pan on plate. Give the bottom of the pan a few smacks with a wooden spoon and the cake should come out smoothly. The cake lasts up to four days wrapped in aluminum foil and kept at room temperature.