If you’re looking for a new twist on a classic dish, then look no further than this Japanese-Style Apple and Honey Roll Cake!
When I was growing up, my Mom would always serve seasonal fruit after dinner. When she would occasionally forget, my siblings and I would sit at the table longer than usual wondering where our nightly serving of fruit was. Because we expected fruit every night instead of a sweeter dessert like cakes or pies, none of us really developed much of a sweet tooth.
On very special occasions, we would pick up a cake from the Japanese or Chinese bakery nearby. I love Asian cakes because they often incorporate fruit and have just a hint of sweetness. When we got older and would go to friends’ birthday parties, American sweets were a shock to the palate. To this day, I don’t care for most American sweets! I sometimes wonder if my Mom knew exactly what she was doing.
The most famous dish of all on Rosh Hashanah is perhaps the simplest; apples dipped in honey, an edible prayer for a sweet year. Here’s my updated take on a classic apple and honey cake for dessert: light and airy Japanese sponge cake with whipped cream, spiced apples and honey rolled in. The end result is an unexpected take on a classic with a beautiful presentation and just a touch of sweetness to last all year.
Ingredients for 6 servings
4 large eggs (separate yolks from whites and place the whites in the refrigerator)
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup organic white sugar
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 Tbsp. white confectioner’s sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 fuji apples, cored, peeled and chopped into roughly 1/2″ pieces
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. allspice
45 minutes + 2 hours of refrigeration
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9″x 13″ baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the apples with lemon juice.
In a medium pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the honey and stir constantly until the honey and butter are incorporated. Reduce the heat to low and slide the apples in, along with the spices. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the apples have softened and are cooked through.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with a whipping attachment, whip the refrigerated egg whites at medium speed with 1/4 cup sugar. Once that’s incorporated, add another 1/4 cup of the sugar until stiff peaks form. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip again until everything is well-incorporated and stiff peaks have formed.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the last 1/4 cup of sugar until it’s an airy, custard-like consistency. It should double in volume and become thick and lighter in color. Add the cake flour a little at a time and stir until just incorporated.
Add the yolk mixture into the egg white meringue mixture and stir very carefully with a spatula until just combined. You want to stir carefully so as not to deflate the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet (the sides of the baking sheet should be at least 1″ high). Spread the mixture out evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through (use a cake tester or toothpick).
Place another piece of parchment over the cake, then place another baking sheet on top of that. Using oven mitts while the cake is still hot, flip the cake over. The bottom side of the cake should be facing up underneath the parchment paper. Gently remove the parchment paper (that the cake was baked in). Place the cake on a large cutting board and slice one edge of the cake at a slight diagonal (just slice a thin sliver – so if it’s in landscape orientation, slice a bit off the short end). Gently roll the cake up and wrap it in a clean cotton towel on a cooling rack to dry. This will help the cake hold its shape later.
While the cake is cooling, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until it’s the consistency of whipped cream (light and fluffy), being careful not to over-mix (it will start to visibly break down). Reserve about 1/2 cup of whipped cream, in case you would like to use it to frost the top of the cake as pictured. Fold in the apple mixture to the whipped cream.
After about 15-30 minutes (or whenever the cake has mostly cooled), remove the cake from the kitchen towel and unroll it. With the bottom side still facing up, spread the whipped cream and apple mixture on the cake with an offset spatula. Leave 1/2″ on all edges of the cake unfrosted, and use a little less frosting as you approach the end of the cake.
Carefully but tightly roll the cake back up (roll it away from you, with the length of the cake going away from you). The angled cut you made should be on the opposite end of the cake from where you are standing (the end of the wrap). Wrap another piece of parchment around it, twisting each of the sides shut. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.
Frost the top of the cake if you’d like. I also added crushed freeze-dried apples and pistachios to my cake for crunch and color. Enjoy!
Kristin Eriko Posner (she/her) is a Japanese American Jew and the founder of Nourish Co., a website that inspires multiethnic people and families to create nourishing new rituals drawn from time-honored wisdom. She does this through her writing, recipe development, and a limited-edition collection of modern heirlooms, all of which explore and celebrate her intersecting identities.