I love matchmaking. Generally not the romantic kind, as that feels too pressured for both the matchmaker and the matched. But connecting two of my friends to each other, watching as they find common interests and sometimes, if I’m lucky, begin to form an independent friendship. And while I do generally adhere to the adage that “it’s better to give than to receive,” I’m most appreciative when a friend introduces me to someone they think I’ll like.
When my friend Jill introduced me to Nancy Leopold, we immediately hit it off. I wouldn’t say Nancy is a bundle of contradictions – more like a set of coins with two sides. While she is deeply concerned about spiritual and public policy matters, she also cares about people. Nancy can be serious about an issue, but I doubt that she’s ever had a conversation in which she hasn’t found something to joke and laugh about. And while she is a huge proponent of change and dynamism, but she appreciates tradition like no one else I know.
Nancy and her husband Jeff have hosted an open house for 33 years that features Jeff’s famous chili– and lots of it – followed by Nancy’s apple chocolate chip cake. The apple chocolate chip cake is just the right finish for a spicy batch of chili. With just a touch of sweetness, studded with apple chunks and chocolate, the cake is satisfying, but not heavy. As the hundred of guests mingle and munch, plates of cake go from towers of deliciousness to empty in the blink of an eye. Like my apple cake in a bundt pan, this cake is made with oil, not butter, so it is a great alternative for folks who love dessert but seek a lower fat alternative. This cake is also pareve for those keeping kosher if you use chocolate chips that are so labeled.
While I’ve only known Nancy since about 2000, her friendship with Jill goes back much further. Jill fondly remembers when they lived in the same apartment building (pre-kids) and Jill could smell the cake baking as she opened her door. Jill now admits that she used to find excuses to pop in on Nancy when the cake was in the oven, hoping that she’d be invited to sample it. I can’t blame her.
Nancy Leopold’s Apple Chocolate Chip Cake
Serves – 10-12 Cost – $6
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 cups peeled, chopped apples (2-4 apples depending on size)
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil (canola or similar) + extra (or butter) for greasing pan
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 10 ounces/1½ cups of semisweet chocolate chips (⅓ cup less than a full 12-ounce package)
- 3 bowls – 1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small
- Cutting board
- Knife and vegetable peeler
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Large fork or whisk
- Large spoon
- Baking pan
- Wire rack
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan and set it aside.
- Cut the apples, mix the chunks with the sugar in the large bowl, and let them stand for 15 minutes. That interval gives the apple chunks time to absorb the sugar .
- In the medium bowl, mix (or whisk) together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- After the 15 minute “rest” for the apple and sugar mixture, lightly beat the eggs in the small bowl and add the oil and eggs to the apples and sugar.
- Add the dry ingredients to the apple, sugar, oil and egg mixture in 3 additions, mixing thoroughly after each addition. By the end, the batter will be stiff. Fold in the chocolate chips and spoon the batter into the greased baking pan. (It’s too stiff to pour.) Even it out with the spatula or the back of the spoon.
- Bake the cake approximately 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan, on a wire rack. I rushed to take photos of the finished cake, so you may notice that the chips aren’t completely cooled, even though the cake was room temperature. Be more patient than I was, and wait at least a couple of hours or overnight before serving it to guests. Of course, it’s no crime to try a “test piece” before the cake is fully cooled.