All that Jazz (Apples)

Have a slice. Go on. You can.

Delicate, vibrant berries and juicy, plump stone fruit steal the thunder in summer.

So much so that we almost forget how delightful biting into a crisp, wine-y apple can be.

I was reminded of that when a 40-pound box of Jazz apples arrived with a big clunk on my doorstep as a sample.

Who needs to go to the gym, when wrestling this heavy crate into the house was exercise enough for the ol’ biceps? My neighbors loved me for sharing the wealth. After all, who can resist a sweet-tart apple that squirts juice from the first snappy bite?

Jazz apples are available year-round. A cross between the tart Braeburn and sweet Royal Gala varieties, Jazz apples are grown in New Zealand during our spring and summer, and in Washington state during fall and winter. You can find them in both organic and non-organic versions at Safeway, Whole Foods, Mollie Stone’s, and many other grocery stores.

Jazz apples that make your appetite sing.

I enjoyed many a Jazz apple just out of hand. But I also set some aside to make a most wonderful apple cake. The recipe, “Babette Friedman’s Apple Cake,” was published last year in the New York Times.

It was my friend, Marvin, who first brought this recipe to my attention. As a food writer at the San Jose Mercury News, I used to fondly refer to Marvin as my “Number One Fan in Southern California,” because each and every week, he would go online to read the food section diligently. Invariably, he’d send me an email afterward to let me know how much he enjoyed a particular story. He’d also send me links to other recipes he had tried and loved. A movie buff, who is retired from that Tinsel Town industry, he would send me recommendations for obscure, interesting foreign flicks, as well. And when my parents passed away, it was Marvin who sent me some of the most thoughtful and touching words of comfort.

So when Marvin sent me this apple cake recipe, I knew it as worth trying. Marvin doesn’t like baked goods that are too sweet, especially ones with fruit. Instead, he likes the true flavor of the fruit to shine through.

In this recipe, the apple slices are tossed with a little cinnamon and freshly grated ginger. A half-teaspoon of Calvados gets mixed in, too. But since I had a big bottle of Calvados at home, I upped the amount to 1 tablespoon instead.

Mix the batter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Fold in about 1/3 of the apple slices, and pour the batter into a springform pan. Arrange the rest of the apples over the top, then sprinkle on a mere 1 tablespoon of sugar.The recipe says to bake about 50 minutes, but maybe because I have a gas oven, mine ended up taking a little over an hour. After emerging all caramelized from the oven, the cake can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.

It’s a tender, buttery cake chock-full of apples. It’s just sweet enough. And it’s a most delicious reminder of just how wonderful apples can be, no matter what time of year.

So thank you, my “Number One Fan In Southern California,” for again sharing your words of wisdom that never cease to hit the mark.

A tender, buttery cake filled with sweet apples.

Babette Friedman’s Apple Cake

(makes one 9-inch cake, about 8-10 servings)

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter; plus more for greasing pan

1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided use

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 8 slices

1 tablespoon Calvados or apple brandy

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and set aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 8 ounces butter, 1 1/3 cups sugar, and salt. Mix until blended and fluffy. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. In a small bowl, combine flour with baking powder. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour-baking powder mixture into the butter-sugar mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in about 1/3 of the apples, and spread batter evenly in pan.

In a large bowl, toss remaining apples with Calvados, ginger and cinnamon. Arrange apple slices in closely fitting concentric circles on top of dough; all slices may not be needed. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over apples.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake dough comes out clean and apples are golden and tender, about 50 minutes (or maybe a little longer). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Daniel Rose’s adaptation of a December 2008 New York Times recipe

Try another dessert featuring apples and Calvados: Gingerbread with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon

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  • I ADORE the flavor, crunch, and juiciness of Jazz apples – can’t wait until they’re in season here!!

    Wonderful cake recipe!!

  • AH and i thought i was the only one who thought tht way. going grocery shopping is my form of exercise, choosing the humble shopping basket over the convenient push trolley! πŸ˜€ love jazz apples but not as much as i love pink lady apples! πŸ˜€ this is beautiful Caroline. so yum so yum!!! xx

  • Oh I love a good apple cake! I don’t know if I’ve tried jazz apples, but like diva I LOVE pink ladies. That cake is beautiful. Gets me excited about fall…

  • I’ve never tried Jazz apples. The apple cake looks gorgeous though! I’ve been wanting to bake an apple cake for a few weeks now…but it’s been too hot!

  • The cake looks amazing! Love fruit in a fluffy, buttery cake like this. Great way to get us ready for fall too.

  • A fantastic cake! Seasonal apples are back, yummy!



  • Ok. Yum!!! YAY for apple season, I smell Fall and I can’t wait. Gorgeous cake!

  • Love apples and cake, just having a hard time thinking its apple time already.

  • The texture of that apple cake looks amazing!

  • What a thoughtful post and what a lovely looking cake! I have never had a Jazz apple. They look a bit like Pink Lady apples from the photo. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

  • Those apples make me want to do “jazz hands” πŸ™‚

  • Yum! Can’t wait for apple season!

  • Carolyn,
    I truly admire your work and aspire to reach the point when goodies start arriving on my doorstep, and chefs like Thomas Keller allow me to preview their recipes!

    This apple cake looks and sounds wonderful and gets me thinking about Fall.

    Denise @ There’s a Newf in My Soup!

  • I’m with Marvin. I love desserts but not too sweet and the fruit should be allowed to shine.

  • I have a SERIOUS love for peaches and other summery fruits. But I absolutely RELISH apple season. I will miss having the freedom to go picking my own this year, but I know between all the wonderful farmer’s markets in this city I will not go without magnificent, peak-of-season apples. I wonder how many pies I’ll make this year?

  • wow! that cake looks beautiful! i’m always glad to have another apple recipe that isn’t a pie or a tart. thanks for sharing!

  • We just received Jazz Apples in our local grocery store and they are soooo yummy! Can’t wait to try this. Its a great symbol that Autumn is coming. πŸ˜‰

  • I’ve never heard of a Jazz apple. Something new to try! The cake looks yummy!

  • I like to add some Apple Syrup (or Boiled Cider) to apple recipes. Just a tablespoon or so will really kick-up the apple flavor. It is also a good substitute for Calvados, but using both is better. That cake really looks as good as Carolyn’s photos and tastes as good as it looks. Also, keep in mind that the recipe contains ginger, the true key to Carolyn’s taste buds.

    Thanks Carolyn for the very kind words. It has been 11 years since we started corresponding. I have kept every one of our emails because they represent a wonderful dialog about our favorite things — and a priceless record of our email friendship.

  • Ooh, BOTH Calvados and apple syrup? See what I mean — Marvin always has pearls of wisdom worth sharing. πŸ˜‰

  • I’ve never heard of Jazz Apples before..must be on the lookout for them!
    Boy, oh boy, that cake looks GORGEOUS though!
    I don’t think there’s an Autumn here in SoCal though…it’s still a scorching 100 degrees!

  • Gorgeous and delicious apple cake! I can’t wait to try it, we love eating many different apple desserts in September!

  • Ahh this looks like a winner. i don’t really like apple pie as much as apple cake and I will definitely print this and give it a try. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • This looks so great! I’m really looking forward to apple season πŸ™‚

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  • Yum, that apple cake looks so good, I’m doing jazz hands just for you!

  • Glad to see that so many others are enjoying my grandmother’s apple cake recipe!

    Great photos, too.

    Daniel Rose

  • Daniel: Wow, your grandma! I’m honored to have you leave such a nice comment. You’re very lucky to have had a grandma who could bake like this, too.

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  • Love this cake. Thank you.

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