At Shalom Japan, the Williamsburg restaurant owned by Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel, lucky visitors tuck into matzoh ball ramen, Wagyu pastrami sandwiches, and lox bowls served with rice, ikura, and Japanese pickles. Like all American food, the menu at Shalom Japan represents a fusion cuisine—though it’s not a titillatingly improbable one, born in a pitch meeting. Instead, Shalom Japan is the product of Okochi and Israel’s real-life marriage: it is fusion cuisine born of love.
Fuji Apple Upside-Down Cake
Recipe by Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel from Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen; Ten Speed Press (2023)
SERVES 6 TO 8
Cooking spray or a neutral oil, for the pan
100g (1⁄2 cup) packed light brown sugar
57g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and halved
1 fresh yuzu, Meyer lemon, or lemon
250g (1 3⁄4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
250g (1 1⁄4 cups) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
225g (16 tablespoons/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
Vanilla ice cream (optional), for serving
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Mist the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.
In a small pot over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, and honey. Do not stir. Gently shake the pan to help melt the butter and the sugar. Once the mixture turns to liquid, cook until it starts to bubble and develop a nice amber color, 3 to 4 minutes, then immediately remove from the heat. Carefully pour into the prepared cake pan (it’s very hot!) and set aside.
Put the apples cut-side down on a cutting board and slice straight down into 1⁄4-inch-thick half-moons. Starting at the outer edge of the pan, layer the apple slices on top of the caramel in a pinwheel shape, with each slice overlapping just a bit. Cut any leftover slices into small cubes to add to the batter later. Finely zest the yuzu over the apples. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice from the yuzu, sprinkle over the apples, and set the pan aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the eggs on high speed until very frothy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and continue mixing on high speed until the mixture looks shiny, another 5 minutes. Add the rum, vanilla, and cinnamon and mix on low speed for a few seconds, just to incorporate. Remove the bowl from the machine.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in one-third of the flour mixture until just incorporated. Add half of the melted butter and fold to incorporate. Fold in another one-third of the flour mixture until just incorporated. Add the remaining melted butter, folding just a few times. Fold in the remaining flour mixture and the cubed apples until just incorporated. Fold a few more times, then pour the batter into the pan and spread in an even layer.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool in the pan until it is no longer hot, but still warm, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Slide a butter knife around where the cake meets the pan to help loosen the edges. Flip the cake over onto a platter and give it a tap to unmold. Slice and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.