The Shabbat Table: Let them eat cake!

Coffee cake
Coffee cake

The Shabbat Table is the latest CJN column from noted chef and food blogger Norene Gilletz. Click here for last week’s recipes.

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! I spoke to several friends when planning this week’s blog and asked them whether they preferred to make cake or cookies for Shabbat. The overwhelming response was: “Cakes, of course! Cookies are a like a side dish, but cake is like a main course!”

I’m delighted to share a few of my favourite cake recipes with you. Tried and true, they’re perfect for Shabbat (or any time). They’re always a hit with family and friends, so many of my readers and I bake them on a regular basis. These quick and easy cakes taste terrific, are pareve (or can be adapted easily to be pareve), and use ingredients that are readily available. They also make for an easy grab-and-go breakfast on Shabbat.

My carrot cake is also a wonderful choice for Shabbat (find the recipe here). Of course, my scrumptious zucchini cake is another way to include more vegetables in your dessert!

And if you’re looking to add some fruit to your cake, try my Blueberry Crumble Cake. Although it’s a dairy recipe, it’s easy to make it pareve: replace the yogurt or sour cream with 1 Tbsp lemon juice plus enough rice or soy milk to equal 1 cup.



Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible (Whitecap).

This cake is a favourite of my favourite nephew, Toronto lawyer Marshall Matias. When he was growing up, he was surprised to learn that coffee cake wasn’t made with coffee. We explained to him that coffee cake is supposed to be enjoyed with coffee!


1 cup walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon


3/4 cup pareve margarine or butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups flour

4 tsp vinegar or lemon juice plus milk, rice milk or soymilk to make 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 square (1 oz/30 g) semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a 12-cup fluted tube pan or Bundt pan with nonstick spray.

2. Topping: Chop nuts coarsely in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, using several quick on/off pulses. Remove 1/2 cup nuts and set aside. Add remaining topping ingredients to processor. Process for a few seconds to mix. Empty bowl and wipe clean with paper towels. (No need to wash the bowl!)

3. Batter: Process margarine or butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 2 minutes. Do not insert pusher in feed tube. Add half the flour and process with 2 or 3 on/off pulses, until nearly blended. Add vinegar/milk mixture, remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Process with several quick on/offs, just until blended. Do not overprocess. Mix in reserved nuts with 1 or 2 quick on/offs.

4. Pour half the batter into prepared pan. Drizzle half the melted chocolate over batter and cut through with a knife to make a marbled effect. Sprinkle with three-quarters of the topping.

5. Add remaining batter and drizzle with remaining chocolate. Cut through second layer of batter with a knife. Sprinkle with remaining topping.

6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan 15 minutes.

7. Invert cake onto a plate, then turn cake over so that nut mixture is on top.

Yield: 15 to 18 servings. Freezes well.


This scrumptious adaptation of my popular coffee cake brings it to a brand new level. Totally addictive!


3/4 cup pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

8 oz/250 g semisweet chocolate broken into chunks

Batter (see above)

1. Process ingredients for filling on the steel blade with several quick on/off pulses, until coarsely chopped.

2. Prepare batter as directed above.

3. Assemble and bake cake as directed.


Adapted from Second Helpings, Please!

Apple cake
Apple cake

When my son, Doug, and his wife first started dating, she told him, “This is my mom’s apple cake!” Doug replied, “No, this is my mom’s apple cake!” I had created the recipe nearly 50 years ago when a group of young Jewish women in Montreal compiled Second Helpings, Please! as a fundraising project. The cookbook is no longer in print, but this recipe has become almost everyone’s apple cake! I hope it will be yours as well.

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons water or orange juice

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

6 to 8 baking apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup white or brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup icing sugar for sprinkling, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking dish or 9-inch spring form pan (or coat with nonstick spray).

2. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer or food processor until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in oil.

3. Add liquid alternately with combined dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and beat just until smooth.

4. Spoon about half of the batter into prepared baking dish. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle apples with sugar and cinnamon; spoon apples evenly over batter. Cover with remaining batter. (I usually drop blobs of batter on top of the apples. It doesn’t matter if they are completely covered.)

5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Cool completely.

6. Sprinkle with icing sugar, if desired.

Yield: 8 or 9 servings.

Norene’s Baking Secrets:

  • I usually use Cortland or Spartan apples. Granny Smith or Gala apples, or a blend, also work nicely. Macs don’t hold their shape as well and will make your cake soggy after a day or so…but some people like it that way!
  • Freeze? Cake will be slightly soggy if frozen. For best results, I thaw it uncovered, then reheat uncovered at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes.


Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible (Whitecap)

Big, moist, dark and delicious, this dairy-free cake is a family favourite all over the world. I’ve also used this recipe for birthday cakes for years – it’s definitely much more delicious than using a cake mix!

2 1/4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups orange juice or water

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups canola oil

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a 12-cup fluted tube pan or Bundt pan with nonstick spray (you could also use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.)

2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, coffee powder, and salt. Process until blended, about 10 seconds. Add orange juice or water and eggs. Start processor and add oil through feed tube while machine is running. Process batter for 45 seconds. Do not insert pusher in feed tube and do not overprocess.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until cake tests done. Cool for 20 minutes before removing cake from pan.

5. Place on a serving platter. When completely cool, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 15 to 18 servings. Freezes well.

Norene’s Baking Secrets:

  • Why are there cracks on the surface of your cake? Your oven was too hot; you added too much flour; you over-mixed the batter; you didn’t add enough liquid.
  • I measure flour using the dip and sweep method. Stir the flour to loosen it, and then dip the measuring cup into the flour. Level it off with the straight edge of a knife.
  • Always use nested measuring cups to measure flour and glass measuring cups to measure liquids.
  • Never measure flour in a Pyrex measuring cup, and never ‘knuck the cup!’ You can’t level off the top of the flour properly, so the tendency is for bakers to bang and shake the measuring cup to level off the flour. This causes the flour to compress, so you end up adding too much flour.
  • Why did your cake sink in the center? You added too much sugar, shortening or baking powder; under-baked batter; you opened the oven door too soon; you didn’t add enough eggs or flour.
  • Why did your cake break apart when you tried to unmold it from the pan? You didn’t grease or spray the pan completely; you didn’t let it cool enough before un-molding it. Always let a cake cool at least 15 to 20 minutes before un-molding it from the pan.

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of eleven cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor.

Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website or email her at [email protected].