Sunday, June 7, 2020 -
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Vilna Vegetarian: Apple cake tested

We decided to take a risk this year with our Rosh Hashanah Foods section. A fascinating new cookbook came into the office and we couldn’t resist crafting a menu from its myriad recipes. The risk — and the catch? It’s all in the cookbook’s title: The Vilna Vegetarian. So no brisket, no gefilte fish.

But we wouldn’t throw you into the deep end without a life raft, would we? We promised that we’d test the recipes, and test the recipes we did. And we think the testing will help guide you in tackling these totally from scratch recipes. Hailing from the era of coal stoves and larders, these recipes lack certain fundamentals that we’ve come to except — such as oven temperatures for example. Amounts are also vague as these recipes are geared toward the pre-war housewife, i.e. when people cooked three meals a day and through that experience learned to understand amounts intuitively (e.g. “add as much flour as [the dough] will absorb).

Get into the feel of the recipes by reading our review of this remarkable cookbook and an overview of our vegetarian Rosh Hashanah dinner. And then? Get cooking!

(We’ve started testing the menu backwards, so from the desserts. We’ll be posting more recipes throughout the week, so check back!)

Apple Cake

As noted in the instructions, the dough for this recipe is very soft. We used about 1+2/3 C flour, added in 1/3 measures. After dividing the dough, we shaped it into small discs and rested for about half and hour in the fridge before rolling. After rolling, we rested the crusts for 5 minutes in the freezer which helped with handling when it came to shaping the pie.


  1. Make a soft dough from 2 eggs, 2 tbsp. sugar, ½ C [melted] butter, 3 tbsp. sour cream, 1 tsp. baking powder, and as much flour as it will absorb. Divide into 2 parts, and roll out 2 sheets. Place one on a greased baking sheet. Meanwhile, grate 2 lbs. apples, mix with 1 C sugar and ½ envelope vanilla powder [or ½ tsp. vanilla extract], and spread over the first sheet of pastry. Cover with second sheet, and pierce with a fork. Brush with egg [wash], and bake [at 350ºF] about 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

This recipe differs from the one published in the IJN, as the amounts are all halved. Making half of this recipe leaves you with a double-crusted pie, so the full recipe either leaves you with one gargantuan pie or two normal sized ones. And yes, this recipe is really more of a pie than a cake.

For the apples, we used a mix of Granny Smith, Fuji and Pink Lady. Not having a food processor to hand, we box grated one half of them and thinly sliced the other half.

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