January 2018 | The Honest

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I was boiling some cinnamon, water, and orange peels on the stove yesterday... Sound strange? My Mom taught me this a long time ago. It's basically old country air freshener.  I didn't particularly need to "freshen" the air....but I love the way it smells. There's just something about cinnamon that warms me on a cold January day.  The smell of cinnamon also lead me down a path of "hmmmm,...what can I bake with cinnamon today ....?" Well, that list was endless. So many options. Too many options. As I was going through my recipe box I came across this gem. PERFECT. I had a handful of granny smith apples at home, checked for the rest  and I was in luck!  I had all the ingredients for Zia's Apple Cake!

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This recipe came from my Mom, who got it from her Aunt.  My Mom came to America, from Italy, in her teens, When they came to America they lived with her Aunt for a short while. This recipe came from her and it's been around a long time. It's a great choice when you've exhausted the usual "cinnamon & apple" combos of pies, crumbles, etc. This recipe also makes GREAT muffins! If you decide to go that route, follow the same method & just cut the cooking time in half. Make sure to line your muffin tins with parchment baking cups.


For this post, I opted to bake this  cake in two loaf pans. This is always a great option for me .  While my boys devour the first loaf, I can freeze and wrap the other.  I like to have back up cakes in the freezer for a last minute guest or treat for my family. You can also bake in 9 x 13 cake pan or two muffin pans. To start, prep your cinnamon sugar topping, dry ingredients, and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Starting with the cinnamon sugar prep each individually and set aside.  Then, mix the wet ingredients.  You can use a hand whisk, hand mixer, or stand up mixer. I used a whisk to keep clean up simple. Once your wet ingredients are mixed, make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the wet to the dry. Mix well...It's almost time for the apples. 


That should have come together pretty quick. You still have your cinnamon sugar on the side. Now its time to prep your pans. I like to add parchment to my pans, then cooking spray. The parchment is not a necessary step, but making the parchment too long, on purpose, creates "handles" . Later, these help easily pull the cake out of the pan.  

Once your pans are ready, it's time for the apples. for this recipe I use 4 apples. 2 diced. 2 sliced. You can adjust more or less to your liking. Now that your apples are prepped, you will take one quarter of your batter and place it in the bottom of the loaf pan. Layer in diced apples, sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Then, add another quarter of the batter over top of the diced apples.  Nest add your sliced apples on top of your cake. This is what is most seen do a nice job layering them. Last, add a generous amount the cinnamon sugar on top. Repeat all these steps for the second loaf pan. 






  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 granny smith apples, peeled and slices (cores removed)


  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup white granulated sugar
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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. In a small bowl, prepare the cinnamon sugar mixture.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set Aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, orange juice, sour cream, and vanilla extract.

5. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until well combined.

6. Prepare apples. Peel, core, and dice 2 apples. Peel, core, and slice the last two apples. You can sprinkle the apples with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.  



1. Spray two loaf pans with non stick cooking spray. You can first line with parchment if prefered.

2. Pour half the batter into one loaf pan. Add one layer of diced apple,s sprinkle one quarter of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over top.

3. Spoon the remaining batter over the diced apples. Artfully arrange half the sliced apples and  add cinnamon sugar over the top.

4. Repeat steps with second loaf pan.

5. Cover cake pan loosely with foil. 

6.  Bake for 45-55 minutes. 


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jennifer bolognaComment