Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (2024)

by Laura 21 Comments

Jump to Recipe Print Recipe

Grandma Ethel was amazing and her apple cake like pie is too.

If you knew Grandma Ethel (or her grandchildren), you’d want to adopt her. I did. She was my wonderful friend Marcia’s grandmother, admirer, and baking mentor.

Grandma Ethel’s apple cake is the stuff from which “Grandma Legends” are made. The crust is almost that of a pie, but it ends up more like a cake. The ingredients are simple, yet the final result is melt-in-your-mouth good. The cake entails a few steps, but none are complicated or intimidating once you get underway. Although different from my Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake, both comefrom the great tradition of Jewish apple cakes, perfect for holidays, Shabbat, and even an everyday treat no matter what you celebrate – or don’t.

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (1)

While she did oblige when Marcia asked her for the recipe, Grandma Ethel’s instructions were best understood if you were standing next to her as she made the cake. A little of this, not too much of that, mix together unspecified amounts of cinnamon and sugar – you get the picture. (At least she didn’t respond the way the Lovin Spoon chef did, i.e. omitting an ingredient or two, so that the recipe couldn’t be duplicated without a lot of guesswork.) Marcia dutifully took down the recipe as dictated by Grandma Ethel, then coaxed out enough more information and answers to turn it into a recipe that she (and the rest of us) can follow.

There is one part of the recipe that Marcia didn’t write down. Like her grandmother, she knew it so well that she probably didn’t realize others might not – add love as you mix and roll, serve it to people you care deeply about, and enjoy the cake with them.

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (2)

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (3)

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (4)

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (5)


Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake Like Pie

This apple cake like pie is the best of both worlds. Great filling and a crust that is more cakey than a pie, while providing a nice balance to the filling. An altogether wonderful comfort food snack or dessert.


CuisineAmerican, Jewish

Prep Time 30 minutes

Cook Time 40 minutes

Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Servings 12 servings

Author Laura



  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour + extra for pan and flouring mat/paper
  • 1/2cup sugar
  • 2teaspoonsbaking powder
  • 8 tablespoonsunsalted butter, softened (Grandma Ethel used Crisco or margarine) and cut into 8-10 chunksI/4 pound or 1 stick
  • 2eggs, well beaten
  • 2tablespoonsorange juice + slightly more if required


  • 4poundsapples, Macintosh or similarMacintosh or other soft variety, not the typical pie apples, which are harder and retain their shape during cooking.
  • 1/2cupsugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1teaspooncinnamon


  • Additional cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on the top



  1. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a medium bowl.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (6)

  2. Add the butter, eggs, and orange juice. Mix the ingredients, first with a fork, then with your lightly floured hands, just until they come together as dough. If they are too dry to hold together, add another tablespoon or so of juice. If the dough is too soft, add a bit of flour.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (7)

  3. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a disk, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the disks while you make the filling.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dust the pan with flour (don’t grease it with butter or oil) and set aside.


  1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in the small bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples.

  2. Put the apple slices in the large bowl, add the cinnamon and sugar, and mix them until all the slices are covered.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (8)

Putting cake together

  1. Takeonedough disk out of the refrigerator once it is chilled (45 minutes to an hour chilling time is sufficient)and roll it on a lightly floured mat or piece of waxed paper into a rectangle slightly larger than the 9 x 13-inch pan,about 10x 14-inches. Gently lift thedough into the pan with the ends coming up the sides of the pan. Folding the dough about in half works, as long as you are gentle when moving it.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (9)

  2. Add the apple slices on top of the dough.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (10)

  3. Take out the second dough diskand roll it out to just over 9 x 13-inches. Place it over the apples, tuck in the sides, and poke a few air holes with the knife. The top will be bumpy and the sides don't have to be pretty. As I said, like the bestgrandmas, this is a forgiving cake. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the top.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (11)

  4. After I took the middle photo, I decided that my topping didn't have enough cinnamon, so I added more cinnamon (with less sugar this time) on top. Again, this is not an exacting process. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, until the top is golden and the juices are bubbling.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (12)

  5. Cool the apple cake on a wire rack to barely warm or cool before cuttingpiecesin the pan.

    Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (13)

Recipe Notes

I love my apple corer – it’s sturdy and does the job so quickly (even when I slice the thick slices in half or thirds) but you can easily cut the apple slices for the filling with just a peeler and knife.

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (14)

The apple slicesbake into a soft, golden compote-like fillinginside the cake, so there is no need to sprinkle lemon juiceas a precautionto prevent thembrowning.

Grandma Ethel's Apple Cake | Mother Would Know (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gregorio Kreiger

Last Updated:

Views: 5677

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gregorio Kreiger

Birthday: 1994-12-18

Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

Phone: +9014805370218

Job: Customer Designer

Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.